Policy Name: Front-of-package labeling amendment to the General Labeling Specifications for Prepackaged Foods and Non-Alcoholic Beverages–Commercial and Health Information, Mexico
Overview: Mexico passed a law in late January 2020 that requires food manufacturers to add warnings to their front-of-package (FOP) labeling for foods that are declared by the Official Mexican Standards (NOM) to be high in sugar, sodium, or saturated fat. Warnings that caution against children consuming items containing caffeine or artificial sweeteners will also be required.
Population: 128 million
Food Policy category: Diet and Nutrition
Program goals: To warn and inform the Mexican population about poor nutritional content in prepackaged foods in order to reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes, and to prevent children from the adverse health effects of consuming caffeinated or artificially sweetened foods and beverages.
How it works: The General Labeling Specifications for Prepackaged Foods and Non-Alcoholic Beverages–Commercial and Health Information already require FOP labeling to display quantities and percent of daily values of saturated fat, total fat, total sugars, sodium, and calories. The amendment adds a black octagonal stop sign symbol, with one or more of the following warnings:
- “Excess Calories”
- “Excess Sugars”
- “Excess Saturated Fats”
- “Contains Caffeine – Avoid in Children”
- “Contains Sweeteners – Avoid in Children.”
Progress to date: The bill passed unanimously in Mexico’s lower legislative house in October 2019. It later passed through the Senate and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and health authorities approved the new label standards in January 2020.
Why it is important: As of 2017, Mexico ranked second (after the U.S.) among the most obese nations in the world, with nearly one-third of its adult population categorized as obese. Heart disease and type 2 diabetes, both of which are associated with poor diet and obesity, are the first and third leading causes of death respectively, with diabetes the number one cause of death and disability combined. Mexican leaders hope to push back against campaigns by processed food companies, such as Grupo Bimbo, the largest bakery company in the world, that encourage consumption of foods high in sugars, saturated fat, sodium, and calories. The new warning symbols on FOP labeling are expected to discourage consumers from purchasing unhealthy products, which may result in improved health for many people.
Program/Policy Initiated: Although the new law was passed in January 2020, authorities have not yet announced when the new labeling requirements will go into effect.
Point of contact: n/a
Similar Practices: In 2016, Chile became the first country to implement a FOP warning label, using a black stop sign with white writing to indicate “Excess [nutrient],” with largely positive results. While it is not yet mandatory, many products in the United Kingdom use a traffic light system for labeling to indicate how high a food is in fat, salt, sugars, saturated fat, and calories.
Evaluation: No evaluation has taken place to date.
- Choosing a Front-of-Package Warning Label for Brazil: A Randomized, Controlled Comparison of Three Different Label Designs (Food Research International)
- Consumer effects of front-of-package nutrition labeling: an interdisciplinary meta-analysis (Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science)
- Taxes and front-of-package labels improve the healthiness of beverage and snack purchases: a randomized experimental marketplace (International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity)
- Call for Mandatory Traffic Light Food Labels (The Times)
- Development of the Chilean Front-of-Package Food Warning Label (BioMed Central Public Health)
- Grupo Bimbo: Meet the Mexican CEO Who Made Your English Muffin (CNBC)
- Mexico (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation)
- Mexican Lower House Passes Junk Food Label Law (Medical Xpress)
- Mexico’s Lower House Passes New Front-of-Pack Labeling Bill (The National Law Review)
- Mexico Anti-Obesity Activists Win Fight for Food Warnings (New York Times)
- OECD Obesity Update 2017 (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development)
- Publication in the Federal Official Gazette of the Draft Amendment to the Mexican Official Standard 051 concerning labeling requirements for prepackaged foods and non-alcoholic beverages (Hogan Lovells)
- Quality of Care is Key to Tackling Mexico’s Diabetes Emergency (World Health Organization)
- Responses to the Chilean law of food labeling and advertising: exploring knowledge, perceptions and behaviors of mothers of young children (International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity)