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South Africa

Uganda: Govt Asks Court to Dismiss Suit Against Junk Food

The government has asked court to dismiss a case in which it is accused of failing to protect Ugandans from the influx of junk food

Civil Society Organization Health Equity and Policy Initiative (HEAPI) and Anthony Odur, a health rights activist sued government in December last year saying that lives of especially children were being put in danger by the government's failure to regulate, among others, labels on food products and their advertisement.

Also sued together with the government is the National Children Authority, Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) and Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC). HEAPI sought for conspicuous healthy warnings on labels of unhealthy foods and beverages in their application.

According to them, research shows that graphic health warnings on food packages similar to those used on cigarette or alcohol packs can prompt people to abandon pleasure-seeking impulses and choose healthier foods.

But state attorney Samuel Tusubira says the suit is premature and misconceived because the Ministry of Health and various institutions have from time to time issued circulars that highlight the knowledge and attitudes of behavioural change to communities in food and nutrition-related matters.

He cites policies that advance proper nutrition like the presidential initiative on healthy eating and healthy living and the food and nutrition policy of 2003 where the goal of government is ensuring that food accessed by the population is nutritious, safe and conforms to acceptable standards.

Tusubira said the issue of deceptive and misleading advertisements is being addressed in the Consumer Protection Bill currently tabled before parliament.

He also noted that UHRC as the third respondent doesn't have a mandate to make any regulations or enforce regulations regarding the operations of restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and coffee shops and that they can only intervene by carrying out an investigation at their own initiative or on a complaint made against the violation of any human right.

Tusubira said the application is premature and wants it dismissed with costs.

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