PAHO and FAO recommend to Latin American governments the application of taxes on ultra-processed foods.
24 enero 2018


Taxes. The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), through the publication of a new document, are promoting a series of regulatory measures to tackle obesity and overweight in Latin America and the Caribbean. This document compiles the experiences and learnings of both organizations in their advocacy work with political actors of the region. The report recommends the countries of the region take fiscal measures that discourage the consumption of critical nutrients and promote the production and sale of healthy foods. It is also proposed to advance in a frontal labeling scheme and limit the advertising of critical products.

It should be noted that the position of both organizations is not binding. In order to prosper, the suggested policies must be promoted by the different governments, though the opinions of PAHO and FAO in the matter will be taken into account in order to put these issues on the agenda and to shape the eventual regulations.

In this regard, in January 2018, PAHO and FAO issued a document recommending the application of selective taxes on the consumption of products with high caloric content, sugar, salt or fat. The measure will be complemented with subsidies to natural foods (unprocessed) or with little processing. The objective is to carry out concrete and effective actions to prevent the “epidemic” of overweight and obesity.

In this regard, WHO and PAHO point out that, if the levies are properly designed, the consumption of sugary drinks will be reduced. They stressed that the loss of consumption is more efficient when taxes increase the critical products more than 20 percent. They also stressed that subsidies on fresh fruits and vegetables would increase their consumption. In this regard, they stress the need to study proposals of higher subsidies for people with lower incomes.

On the other hand, FAO and OPS propose to limit the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of edible products with a high content of calories, sugar, salt or fats. In turn, they promote a front labeling scheme of nutritional warning.

Next steps

PAHO will use this document as a basis for its advocacy actions on Latin American governments. The course of action will be based on:

  • Encourage family farming through public purchases.
  • Promote fairs or local markets.
  • Modify sales parameters of large supermarket chains, which currently prioritize processed and ultra-processed products.
  • Apply taxes on ultra-processed foods.
  • Promote the use of front labeling.
  • Regulate food advertising.
  • Regulate the sale of ultra-processed foods in educational establishments.
  • Food education that encourages the consumption of natural foods and discourages the consumption of processed foods and fast foods.