Minister of Health the Dr. the Hon Duane Sands said in his opinion, it is evident that Bahamians are eating themselves to death. Some of the foods on the national breadbasket have something to do with many of the health challenges Bahamians face such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, Dr. Sands explained at a town meeting on the national breadbasket items at T. G. Glover Primary School, Thursday, April 5, 2018. He said, as a result, the Government decided to convene a forum of dieticians and health specialists to look at the breadbasket items and to analyze whether the items on the list are causing many of the ailments. “They would review the international evidence, look at our local health demographics and make some recommendations.” The Health Minister said the group concluded that the breadbasket should be modified by removing margarine, mayonnaise, corned beef, canned soups, broths, condensed milk and sugar and others should be further specified.
Chief Nutritionist, Ministry of Health, Camelta Barnes, explained that when the breadbasket came about in the 1970s, the major concern was people not getting enough of any type of food whether healthy or unhealthy. “So a list of staples was put together for the purpose of price control meaning common foods eaten on a regular basis by most people in the community.” Ms. Barnes said it should be kept in mind that in most countries staple foods consist of items usually grown or produced in the country. “The Bahamas is not a producer nor does it grow any of the foods on the current breadbasket list, for example, rice, corned beef, sugar, the popular ones.” She said this implies that these foods were eaten on a regular basis because they were more likely the most affordable back then for poor people, the population targeted to benefit from the breadbasket price control. However, Ms. Barnes said while Bahamians are now getting a belly full, they are also getting fatter and sicker. “We are the fattest nation in the region and sixth in the world; diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and some forms of cancer are all raging out of control.”
Ms. Barnes said the focus should be on nutritious and safe food. The Chief Nutritionist explained briefly to those in attendance at the town meeting how to read food labels to see whether the items have the culprits for the non-communicable diseases, which are too much fat, salt, and sugar. She also taught them how to read labels to determine whether food items have enough nutrients to be worth buying, while also debunking many myths people have concerning other sugar and salt substitutes. The Ministry of Health will be leading other town meetings to get feedback from the public as well as inform residents as to the suggested changes being made to the national breadbasket.