Minister Calls For Lifestyle Changes

World Consumer Rights Day Focus on Diets

Emma Hippolyte
Emma Hippolyte

MINISTER of Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs Emma Hippolyte has called on St Lucians to join the rest of the world, and change their lifestyle habits by trying to exercise more regularly, eating healthier and resting sufficiently.

Her call comes in a message to mark World Consumers Rights Day which will be observed worldwide tomorrow. The following is the full text of the Minister’s message:

World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is commemorated every year on March 15. On this day the international consumer movement comes together to highlight and promote the basic rights of all consumers, for demanding that those rights are respected and protected, and for protesting the market abuses and social injustices which undermine them. March 15 every year is a significant day because, on this day in 1963, US president John F. Kennedy, formally addressed the issue of Consumer Rights to the U.S. Congress. He stated that the Federal government, “has a special obligation to be alert to the consumer’s needs and to advance the consumer’s interests.” On this day, March 15 he presented to congress the first four universally declared rights of the consumer in what is known as the U.S. Consumer Bill of Rights.

Consumer rights have continued to be on the global development agenda and we see the continued attempt to address consumer rights, consumer protection, consumer policy and consumer legislation by governments and non-governmental agencies globally. International and regional agreements, which we have signed onto, require that we move to protect consumers’ interests. As leaders, we must ensure that our nation’s economy, fairly and adequately serve consumers’ interests; for consumer rights are in every construct, human rights.

As Minister with responsibility for Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs, I must state categorically that government has not shrugged off its responsibility in the promotion and protection of the rights of its consuming citizens. In fact, the Government of St. Lucia, as consumers themselves, is aware of the concerns consumers are faced with and we as government continue to make every effort to ensure that policies are implemented to facilitate the conduct of fair trade in the marketplace.

We have seen during the past few years that consumers worldwide have been confronted with a myriad of issues, which demand a strong voice at all levels, be it national, regional, or international to advocate on their behalf. Issues of international trade call for consumer interests to be safeguarded; and in recent times, the food, fuel and financial predicaments have posed tremendous challenges on consumers and the consumer movement in general.

This year’s theme for World Consumer Rights Day 2015 as proclaimed by Consumers International, is “Healthy Diets”. This theme is very appropriate as it is well known that unhealthy diets are linked to four of the ten biggest causes of death worldwide: overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, high blood glucose and high cholesterol. Obesity alone is estimated to cost globally US$2 trillion per year. Accordingly, Consumers International (CI), the world federation of consumer rights groups with over 250 members spanning 120 countries, highlights that it is time the world woke up to the price of unhealthy diets. And this is why Consumers International has decided to make helping consumers choose healthy diets this year’s theme in observance of World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) 2015.

We all can agree that science and innovation have helped us to conquer many infectious diseases and there has indeed been tremendous progress in treating life threatening cancers and heart disease. However, tackling non-communicable diseases has now been the greatest public health challenge the many governments and societies face. It is diet and lifestyle-related diseases such as overweight, obesity, hypertension and diabetes that are the main killers of the modern age.

In the last three or so decades we have seen the levels of overweight and obesity rise dramatically, particularly among children and that the trend of poor diet and low physical activity is getting even worse. And more and more we hear the clarion call for action from agencies all over, for all of us consumers to take control of our lives, to eat more health foods, to engage in at least 30 minutes daily of physical exercise, to reduce our intake of salt and sugar.

Many chronic conditions such as cancer, neurological and mental disorders, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and type 2 diabetes can be prevented through better lifestyles and healthier diets. Diabetes and hypertension are very serious problems in Saint Lucia. A survey in 2007 by Canadian researchers found Saint Lucia to have the highest rate of diabetes in the world and the second highest rate of diabetes related amputations in the Caribbean. An analysis of hospital data for the period 2007– 2009 showed that diabetes and hypertension accounted for 27% of all admissions. Of those admissions, hypertension accounted for 50% (2,868 total; males, 1,122; females, 1,746), diabetes for 27% (1,564 total; males, 596; females, 968), and comorbid diabetes and hypertension for 23% (1,275 total; males, 503; females, 772).

Tackling this scourge will require a multi-disciplinary approach, higher levels of cooperation among state and non-state agencies such as the Ministry of Health, the Diabetic and Hypertension Association, the National Consumers Association, the Medical and Dental Association, and other interest groups. One would appreciate that in as much as consumers have a right to healthy food, we must simultaneously excise our responsibility in safeguarding our rights and our lives. And so today I challenge all of us as consumers to start now, as from March 15 join the rest of the world, altering our lifestyle by trying to exercise more regularly, eating healthier and resting sufficiently.

The Ministry of Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs continues to work on the draft Consumer Protection Legislation so that it can be enacted as soon as possible. The Attorney General has presented the Draft Bill to Cabinet for its consideration and onward submission to Parliament for enactment. I am also pleased to inform that this new Bill contains provisions that will seek to address many of the concerns consumers have voiced relating to consumer/supplier agreement; unfair contract terms, particularly matters relating to false, misleading or deceptive representation; unfair or unjust transactions. It is anticipated that with the enactment of this much needed legislation, that consumers would be further empowered to conduct business transactions, with the confidence that their rights, if infringed upon would be redressed within the parameters prescribed in the Bill.

In conclusion, as we join the rest of the world in the observance of World Consumer Rights Day 2015 under the theme Healthy Diets let me repeat my challenge to you as consumers. Alter your lifestyle by taking responsibility to consume healthy foods, be conscious of the foods that we put in our bodies, start an exercise regime, and get the recommended amounts of rest to rejuvenate your bodies. I commend the Ministry of Health and Wellness on its proactive role in advocating for healthy diet and lifestyle. My Ministry remains committed to partnering with all relevant agencies in promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of all consumers.

I wish you a peaceful and enjoyable World Consumer Rights Day.


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