Brazil Bans Advertising and Promoting of Ultra-Processed Foods

by Gabrielle Khalife
Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy Name: Ordinance No 1.274 on Healthy Food Procurement



Population: 211 Million (Worldometers, 2018)

Overview: In an effort to combat the rising rates of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases, the Brazilian Ministry of Health has implemented a ban on the advertisement and sales promotion of ultra-processed food products. The improving economy in Brazil has been unfortunately associated with rising rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer as families with increasing incomes embrace the convenience and flavors offered by ultra-processed packaged foods. The ban is just one part of a broader ordinance that seeks to improve workers’ health by offering only unprocessed or minimally processed foods in all establishments located within the premises of the Ministry of Health and related entities. With consumers dining out more, the policy promotes adherence to healthier habits when eating out.

Progress to date:

On July 7, 2016, Ordinance No. 1274 was put in place by the Brazilian Ministry of Health.

Program/Policy Initiated: July 7, 2016

Food policy category: Diet & Nutrition

Program goals: To promote workers’ health and reduce the number of injuries related to chronic non-communicable diseases and their modifiable risk factors, especially, overweight, obesity and inadequate nutrition.

How it works:

Under the Ministry of Health, Ordinance No. 1.274 aims to promote adequate food and health in the workplace. The decree:

    • Recognizes adequate and healthy food as a basic human right, ensuring permanent and regular access both physically and financially to foods that are sustainable, culturally appropriate and in accordance with special dietary needs.
    • Promotes adequate and healthy food as a basic human right by (1) fostering access to and the availability of quality food while also considering the socio-cultural diversity of workers, (2) encouraging the adoption of healthy dietary practices that are socio-culturally appropriate, (3) encouraging the sustainable use of the environment, the value of regional foods and the consumption of organic foods and (4) creating environments conducive to proper and healthy eating practices.
    • Provides implementation strategies for the promotion of adequate and healthy food in the workplace including:
      • Monitoring workers’ health, with a focus on injuries or diseases related to food and nutrition.
      • Providing strategies for prevention and control of overweight and obese workers.
      • Allowing only a varied range of natural and minimally processed foods to be offered by establishments located within the Ministry of Health and related entities as well as by companies contracted to provide meals at events held by the Ministry of health or a linked entity.
      • Offering at least one fruit option for all meals (preferably of local or regional production, and whole or cut in pieces).
      • Taking measures to reduce the supply of processed and ultra-processed foods.
      • Prohibiting direct sales, promotion, and advertising of ultra-processed foods.
      • Implementing food and nutrition education activities to guide healthy food choices for workers.
      • And More.

Ultra-processed foods are defined by the Ordinance as those:

  • With excessive amounts of sugar, fat and sodium
  • That are industrial formulations made entirely or mostly of substances extracted from unprocessed food or synthesized in the laboratory based on organic materials
  • That have the following nutrient profile:
    • Greater than or equal to 1 mg of sodium per kcal
    • Greater than or equal to 10 percent of total energy from sugars
    • Greater than or equal to 30 percent of total energy from total fat
    • Greater than or equal to 10 percent of total energy from saturated fat
    • Greater than or equal to 1 percent of total energy from trans fats

These guidelines are based on the Food Guide for the Brazilian Population.

The use of ultra-processed foods is allowed in exceptional cases and only in culinary preparations containing mostly natural or minimally processed foods.

Why it is important:

For years, food companies have emphasized macronutrients and vitamins. Consumers are impressed by the fact that a food product they are buying contains “a good source of vitamin X” or has only 100 calories. While calories and nutrients such as fat, sugar and protein are important, how a product is a produced and the ingredients it contains are equally, if not more important and are often overlooked.  

Fun Fact: “Processed foods” have been given a bad rap. However, the definition of a processed food is one that has been changed physically or chemically after being harvested. Everything from washing and chopping to mixing ingredients and packaging is considered part of food processing. In fact, there are three levels of food processing: (1) minimally processed, (2) processed and (3) ultra-processed. Minimally processed foods may be washed, peeled, sliced, juiced, frozen, dried or pasteurized and typically contain just one ingredient (e.g. washed corn). Many foods in this category are ingredients that would be used to cook a meal at home. Processed foods may have more than one ingredient or preservatives added, in addition to being washed, peeled, sliced, juiced, frozen, dried or pasteurized (e.g. canned corn). These products often contain several ingredients, most (but probably not all) of which could be found in a home kitchen. Many still require some preparation before eating, and they may be ingredients used in a home-cooked meal. Ultra-processed foods generally contain multiple ingredients and are mostly or fully prepared in the factory (e.g. a bag of chips). They require little or no preparation before eating. These foods contain industrial ingredients not found in a home kitchen that add vitamins and minerals, enhance flavor and texture, and extend shelf life. Further, individual ingredients may be processed before being combined for additional processing.

Ultra-processed foods are highly palatable mixtures of synthetic flavorings and cheap ingredients scientifically engineered to induce cravings. This, combined with consistent, repetitive and manipulative food marketing and advertising, encourages overeating by consumers. Therefore a ban on advertisements and sales promotions of ultra-processed foods is an excellent first step towards breaking this pattern and reducing consumer temptation for foods that have little or no nutritional value.

Ultra-processed foods not only influence the public’s health, but they also affect social norms since many are made to be eaten on-the-go, thereby undercutting the tradition of family meals.

In 2015, diet-related chronic diseases accounted for 71 percent of total Brazilian deaths — that is a huge and largely preventable toll. Several studies have linked the increase in diet-related chronic diseases to an increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods as replacements for traditional meals based on natural or minimally processed foods. The guidelines implemented by Ordinance No. 1.274 are essential to improving the health of Brazilians. The decree is unique in that it recognizes the external forces that affect dietary habits, including unhealthy food environments (e.g. a restaurant that offers only junk food, vending machines that offer unhealthy snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages, and/or living in a food swamp) and advertisements or promotions for ultra-processed foods. The decree doesn’t try to prevent people from dining out but promotes healthy food choices when eating outside the home and works to create environments conducive to making healthier choices.

Evaluation: The Brazilian Ministry of Health is responsible for evaluation.

Learn more:

Point of Contact:

Ministry of Health

Esplanada dos Ministérios Bloco G – Brasília-DF / CEP: 70058-900  

T: (61) 3315-2712

Similar practices:

The Healthy Beverage Zone aims to create a workplace environment that promotes healthy beverage options in an effort to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks and prevent obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases among those who work, live in and visit the Bronx. Read more.


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