Fat chance!


Ralph ‘Bizzy’ Williams & BICO General Manager Jo-anne Pooler
Ralph ‘Bizzy’ Williams & BICO General Manager Jo-anne Pooler

That’s how the owner of one fast food outlet has described the suggestion that obese Barbadians should pay a “fat tax”.

Ralph ‘Bizzy’ Williams, the Barbados franchise holder of Burger King also rubbished claims that such businesses were partly to blame for the high level of obesity among the local population.

On Tuesday night during a Ministry of Health-organized town hall meeting, Director of the Chronic Disease Research Centre at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Dr Alafia Sammuels joined in calls for Government to “tax the fat”, while warning that the current level of obesity, especially among women was out of control and
placed an added strain on the public health care system.

In a brief interview with Barbados TODAY this afternoon from the United States, Williams insisted that Burger King was the healthiest fast food businesses on the island.

“We are the healthiest fast food in Barbados, so I don’t know what they are talking about. It’s nonsense,” he said.

“At Burger King we try to keep our menu as healthy as possible. Our menus have a lot of variety and we have wide range of salads, so they surely can’t be speaking about Burger King.”

General Manager of the local franchise operation Ryan Walters also defended Burger King saying the majority of their foods were not deep-fried.

“Over 50 per cent of our food is flame grilled and not deep-fried. All our burgers, which are our main sellers, are flame grilled,” Walters told Barbados TODAY.

“We also offer a wide range of salads and other healthy alternatives when you consider the other fast food restaurants on the island.”

Additionally, Walters said they displayed the nutritional and calorie intake for all meals on their menus to educate customers about their choices.

Efforts to reach Ryan Haloute, the managing director of Chefette Restaurants for a comment today were unsuccessful.

However, Chief Executive Officer of the Heart and Stroke Foundation Gina Pitts told Barbados TODAY she would support the imposition of a tax on fast food outlets. However, she cautioned that while it was easy to target the restaurants, other businesses were also contributing to the island’s “obesity crisis”.

“I agree that those restaurants should be taxed . . . but we need to look at it in a broad sweep and not just target the fast food restaurants. They are an easy target, but we have other elements within our food consumption that should also be looked at,” she said, pointing out that “soda manufacturers should also recognize that they are contributing to our NCD [non communicable disease] crisis [as well as] food manufacturers and meat producers who make the sausages and nuggets and those types of things with high levels of sodium.”

In response to yesterday’s story published by Barbados TODAY, the majority of readers have dismissed the idea out of hand.

However, Pitts said a “fat tax” was not as ridiculous an idea as people may think. In fact, she welcomed the suggestion, even though she acknowledged it might be challenging to implement.

“I think there is a need to do something. Whether it is a viable option based on the numbers that we have one could argue yes, but I think there has to be a realization that perhaps the better option which does seem to have worked in other countries is an incentive based option,” Pitts told Barbados TODAY.

“In other words if the individuals seem to be doing things the right way, such as handling their weight or eating properly, to incentivize that and make it more achievable and affordable for individuals, that may be a better way,” she explained.

Meantime, General Manager of BICO Limited Jo-anne Pooler has defended the ice cream maker, saying the company’s products did not have as much sugar or fat content as other brands.

“It does have in fat, it does have in carbohydrates and it does have in protein. So in terms of a dessert, it is fairly well balanced in its elements versus something which may have a lot of carbohydrates,” said Pooler, while comparing ice cream with apple pie.

“That is not to say that ice cream is good for you and you should be eating 20 litres a day, but in moderation,” she said. Pooler also arguing that even though some food products were high in fat, there were other beneficial elements.


11 Responses to Fat chance!

  1. seagul February 12, 2016 at 5:48 am

    How in the world can someone stand up and say a fast food restaurant is healthy. Wake up Bajans, what these people have whether flamed, deep fried or barbecued–it’s high blood pressure to the body direct. A little greenhouse, a kitchen garden–the Barbadian household should make time for a better life and not be sold out by these snake-oil salesmen.

  2. Rasheed Holmes
    Rasheed Holmes February 12, 2016 at 5:48 am

    How is “fast food” healthy you plunket

  3. Vernon Chandler February 12, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Just because it name ‘fast food’ do not mean automatically that the entire menu is unhealthy. Cheffete for instant have a salad bar at a few of its outlets & chicken is one of the healthiest meats after fish…as long as it is not fried or swamped in oil. I do not think that barbadians are getting obese from fast food. I think that they are getting obese from in their own kitchens. The macaroni pie, the lasagne, the fried bacon & fried eggs & fishcakes & hotdogs that we eat for breakfast daily. Things like these contribute greatly to ill-health & obesity. So what are they going to do? Put a tax on macaroni & cheese? On flour & salt fish? On butter? Just another excuse to tax bajans once again instead of creating new ideas to get money. I think that it is about time this govt take the word ‘tax’ out of its vocabulary.

  4. James Franks February 12, 2016 at 8:49 am

    When last I visited Barbados, I was shocked at the very high number of overweight/ obese people around.

    A real surprise, coming from a country that has the most obese people in Europe!!

    What a wake up call.


  5. Romz February 12, 2016 at 9:34 am

    This is a health problem parading as a weight problem. Its alot deeper than eating fast food, this stems from a culture of unhealthy eating and lack health education at all levels of society. To say that Burger King is the healthiest fast food restaurant relative to the others, quite frankly, is not saying much, for the most part its an oxymoron. To suggest that a “fat tax” is the solution to a deeply rooted cultural problem shows a lack of intellect and vision as this would be nothing more than a “quick-(attempt to)fix”. It seems that they are making a direct association between being overweight and being unhealthy which holds true in some cases and not others. Are we also going to implement an “anorexic tax?” Instead of punishing people for the final outcome (being overweight in this case), lets instead encourage healthy habits at the macro level. This policy sounds like a micromanagement policy which I think is not pragmatic at all. We need to address the roots of the problem: our unhealthy eating habits based on our traditions and culture and the lack of education. Fixing cultural and traditional issues cannot be fixed overnight, and certainly not incentivized by a punitive tax.

  6. Fed Up February 12, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    I suppose that all the fast food restaurants are going around knocking on peoples doors insisting on being consumed…as usual its point the finger at everything else but the real problem…people eat what the want to eat. I live on the same Island and I know that fast foods are unhealthy so I make the right healthy choices….stop blaming the fast food people for the fat peoples choices……I can’t believe that this was even thought of by supposedly intelligent people.

  7. Fed Up February 12, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Just another gimmick to put more money in the Politicians pockets…utter madness!

  8. Fed Up February 12, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Why not lower the cost on all he healthy foods in the supermarket instead of taxing people for stupidity! You want people to be healthy then make healthy eating affordable!!!!

  9. Samantha Wilkinson February 13, 2016 at 7:34 am

    More taxes on anything is a further burden on people who already struggle to afford healthy options. Healthy food costs more. If the government and all the other stakeholders are serious about fighting obesity they should think about a reduction in taxes and increase in concessions on the foods that promote healthy living. Fruit and vegetables are very expensive and everything in the category of health supplement is taxed at a ridiculous rate.

    You’re not really serious when you say you want people to eat healthy and then make a healthy lifestyle unaffordable. Take a look at the import duties on all the healthy options (for which there are no viable alternatives locally) and start there!

  10. Sylvan Sobers February 13, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    Successive administrations have allowed generations to neglect agriculture. If officials would do the proper research, they would notice that with the steady decline of labor in the agricultural sector there have been a steady increase in NCD’s. They would also realize that the percentage of long livers in the population are those who were actively engaged in agriculture and not actively spending money in gyms.

  11. Alison Daniel February 13, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    Fast food is not cheap. How many bajans can afford to eat fast food as often as every one seems to believe? Are they going to tax people who cook macaroni pie, pork chops, fried chicken etc.? Will people who don’t exercise be taxed? The best move is probably to try to educate people especially younger ones.
    If you want to impose a tax to assist the hospital just go ahead, nobody was bashful before.


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