Sunday, March 3, 2024

THE HOYOS FILE: Drowning in a sea of sugar and salt


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The National Initiative For Service Excellence (NISE), an organisation devoted to improving our standard of service on this island, just completed what seems to have been a pilot training programme for sno-cone vendors.

Apart from imbibing the basics of professional service, which we could all stand to learn or revisit in our increasingly fast-paced world, the five pioneering sno-cone providers were given Oxford shirts to wear on the job, umbrellas, and paint jobs for their carts.

This spell of training and upgrading is now being followed by a campaign called, I believe, 100 Days of Sno-Cone Excellence, or something similarly titled.

The choice of the number may have more to do with NISE’s need to calibrate everything by adding a number to it, just like all those “news” websites which fill space and try to keep you on their site with articles like “Ten Ways to Say Goodbye,” or “Nine Ways to Lose Unwanted Pounds” or “Fourteen Things You Didn’t Know about the Ebola Virus.”

However, it is rare that even the most enthusiastic editor could come up with 100 of this or that, let alone days to celebrate any kind of service provider or business person, no matter how entrepreneurial.

So I have to hand it to NISE for undertaking this challenge to their creativity. I am sure they will succeed and reach 100 with ideas to spare.

My problem is not with the vendors, or the shaved ice; it is with what they put on it. The syrup, I mean.

Is there any difference in the sugary, tooth-rotting, diabetes-facilitating treacle which sno-cone vendors use compared with the horrible syrup that is added to carbonated water to make soft drinks?

Is it any better for your health? Is it more, or less, likely to help you lose your battle with weight gain, hypertension and diabetes? Not to mention stroke and heart attack somewhere far down the line as a result of all that? I must say, I have my doubts.

Of course, there is a growing global consumer movement against sugary fizzy drinks, so much so that mega-corporations like Coca-Cola are buying up companies that give you that extra energy without so much sugar.

Unfortunately these include beverages that are so high in caffeine that one of them is like drinking five cups of java.

I have been reading about other countries, or towns within them, which now require schools and hospitals to replace sugar-based beverages and snacks with more sugar-free, fruit-based options in their cafeterias and dispensing machines.

But despite calls made right here in Barbados by Government health officials and technical experts advising them and doing research, have you seen any serious effort by any vendor, from the biggest like Banks Holdings Ltd (BHL) to the smallest, like sno-cone vendors, to get the sugar and salt and fat out of the snacks offered to children?

Tell me where to look, please.

Oh yes, there is one vendor with a healthy, or at least a health-neutral, alternative, depending on which research you want to take on board – and that is, the coconut vendor. Oh yes, and all those young entrepreneurs who block traffic at the roundabouts hawking whatever fruit du jour is available.

You know, it never takes me long to get to preaching about this, especially to BHL.

Let me tell you that this is one of the very best companies we have in Barbados, and I am proud to say I know many of the people who have made the company the leader that it is today despite many challenges, but they are sadly lacking in leadership on this matter.

Yes, I have heard over and over that it is the kids who call for the sweets, the corn curls and the syrupy juices and soda drinks.

But the world is still moving away from these types of products and kids and adults around the world who are given healthier alternatives grow to enjoy them even more and do not have the attendant health risks to face.

And they feel better and concentrate better, studies prove conclusively. That is not my opinion, it is now established by the science.

I am also asking Hill Milling and WIBISCO why they are not doing more to curb our insatiable appetite for these products. It is time for leadership in these areas because the health of the nation is not getting better. It is getting worse and we are drowning our young ones in a sea of sugar and salt.

So perhaps NISE should, on day 100, say, “And finally you should really stop eating sno-cones until they replace that syrup with something more healthy.”


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