Front-Package ‘Excess Of’ Labeling, Chile: Urban Food Policy Snapshot

by Alexina Cather, MPH
Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Food Policy: Front-Package ‘Excess Of’ Labeling

Overview: A recent study found that one out of every 11 deaths in Chile can be attributed to obesity. In an effort to reduce this rate, Chilean legislators worked alongside health professionals and nutritionists to develop a front-package labeling system. This system identifies what food and beverage products surpass government established limits for sugar, energy, sodium, and saturated fat and displays it clearly on the front of the product. Any product that is too high in any of these categories is forbidden from being sold in schools or being marketed to children under 14.

Location: Chile

Progress to date:

  • Front Package Excess Labeling is an ongoing program today

Food policy category: Food Labeling and Advertising; Nutrition Policy; Social and Economic Equity

Program Initiated:

  • March 2007, a bill was introduced to the Chilean National Congress with the intention of promoting healthier food environments.
  • July 2012, Chilean Senate approved the Law of Food Labeling and Advertising after spending several years working with groups of health professionals, researchers, and legislators who proposed and crafted regulatory frameworks.
  • January 2013, Ministry of Health published proposed regulatory norms for public opinion
  • March 2013, Public opinion polls and meetings officially end. Government compiles feedback and creates final set of regulatory guidelines.
  • June 2015, the Ministry of Health published the new regulation standards for nutritional labeling of food
  • July 1, 2016 law will officially begin with front-package warning labeling (A staggered implementation  across 3 years has been planned)

Program goals:

  • To ensure that the Chilean government is commitment to a secure, healthy, sustainable, thriving, and socially inclusive food system
  • To improve point of food purchase consumer knowledge by incorporating easy-to-understand front-package labeling and clear messages addressing critical nutrients
  • To enable food choices among residents that enhance health and wellbeing and ensure all Chileans achieve a healthy lifestyle
  • To decrease children’s exposure to unhealthy foods by restricting marketing, advertising, and sales
  • To curb ongoing obesity epidemic and reduce rates of non-communicable disease

How it works:

  • All foods and drinks are assessed against stringent health criteria defined in the Law of Labeling and Advertising. Any food or drink that exceeds categories of sugar, saturated fat, energy and sodium have a warning message printed on the front of the product.
  • Nutrient Reference Values (NRV) are outlined and explicitly defined in the Codex Alimentarius Principles.
    • NRV recommendations for energy and critical nutrients are based on 2,000 kcal for energy, 90g for total sugars (18% total energy), 22g for saturated fat (10% total energy), and 2,000mg for sodium.
    • NRV recommendations were based off of the nutritional suggestions and serving sizes for adults, as they represented the majority of the population.
    • NRV were divided by theoretical number of serving sizes that could contain a significant portion of each nutrient (operating under the assumption that 50% of servings correspond to non-processed foods). Thus, in critical nutrients that could be more present in foods, NRV was divided by a larger number of serving sizes. The NRV of nutrients that were less common were divided by smaller number of serving sizes.
    • Final NRV guideline figures:
      • Energy: 2,000 kcal/10 = 200 kcal per serving size
      • Sodium: 2,000 mg/7–8 = 300 mg per serving size
      • Total sugars: 90 g/5 = 18 g per serving size
      • Saturated fat: 22 g/7 = 3 g per serving size
  • Chilean legislation does not mandate serving sizes, thus servings may vary between food production companies
    • The law is applied in serving sizes of 50g or greater. For foods with serving sizes less than 50g, cutoffs are applied on a 50g serving size scale even if the serving size of the package is smaller.
  • All food and drink exceeding these guidelines must print a warning message in spanish clearly on the front of the food or drink packaging. The warning message must be written in a black and white octagon that takes up at least 10% of the front cover of the products package.
  • One label is required for each nutrient that exceeds the threshold. Therefore, a single product could have up to 4 labels on the front of the package (if it were to violate each of the categories)
  • Food or drink products that exceed the nutritional guidelines outlined by this law may not be offered or distributed for free to children under 14 years of age. Commercial hooks aimed at children are that are not related to the promotion of the product itself (ie toys, accessories, stickers, etc) are also forbidden.
  • Food or drink exceeding these guidelines can not be dispensed, commercialized, promoted, or advertised in preschool, elementary and secondary schools.
  • All food and drink advertisements made in mass media must carry a message promoting healthy lifestyles, to be determined by the Supreme Decree of the Ministry of Health and issued “by the order of the President of the Republic.”

Why it is important:

  • This policy will advance the health literacy of citizens of Chile. The implementation of this program will allow many citizens to obtain and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions.
  • This program is also improving access to healthy and nutritious foods
  • This law demonstrates the Chilean government’s commitment to prioritizing health and nutrition for all residents

Evaluation:

  • When choosing the design of the front-package labeling, a survey of 1,3000 women (women were identified as the primary shoppers at this time) found that a white and black warning label in the shape of an octagon with the message “Excess of – “ had the best visibility, comprehension, and change in intention-to-buy. The study also found that, in order to be effective, the warning needed to cover at minimum 10% of the front surface.
  • Further program evaluation will be conducted in the future after the program has been officially implemented

Learn more:

Point of Contact:

Similar practices:

  • Thailand
    • In 2011 the country introduced mandatory FOP nutrition labels. Labels originally applied to 5 snack categories but leglislation has slowly expanded the label to all snacks.
    • Includes chocolates, bakery products, and other snack foods.
  • The European Union
    • In 2011, the EU adopted voluntary FOP labelling based on guideline daily amounts (GDA) format. FOP labeling is beginning to grow in popularity among consumers.
  • South Africa, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, France, Australia, New Zealand, and more
    • These countries, and more, are beginning to discuss possible FOP nutritional labelling

References:

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