WHO and PAHO reject traffic light labeling approved in the Peruvian Congress
16 marzo 2018


Labeling. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) criticized the bill approved in the Peruvian Congress. The initiative modifies the Healthy Eating Law, by establishing that all processed food and beverages must include a trafic light rating system graphic. By doing so, the initiative reverses the measure adopted by the Ministry of Health, which promoted the use of octagonal nutritional warnings. The Ministry of Health objected to the bill. However, Peru is amidst an institutional crisis due to the impeachment of former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. The new President, Martín Vizcarra, has not yet made any statements on this issue. The deadline for obvserving the bill and sending it back to Congress is April 3rd. Otherwise, the proposal will be published and become law.

The Congress’ Board of Spokesmen decided to exonerate the bill that adopts the new labeling model from second vote in the floor. Officials of the Executive and various technical bodies criticized the decision, which blocked the in-depth debate of the bill. Additionally, the bill contradicts various regulations adopted by the Executive Branch regarding labeling and advertising of food and beverages.

The representative of the PAHO / WHO in Peru, Raúl González, indicated that the system called “nutritional traffic light” generates confusion rather than promote information. He argued that with this format neither children nor adults can decide properly in a very short time. “It makes it impossible to make an adequate decision,” he said.

The Minister of Health, Abel Salinas, indicated that he will insist on the adoption of octagonal labeling. “My proposal from the Ministry of Health will be observation. We are already working on observing this rule in about two weeks. I’m not looking for a confrontation with Congress or the industry. It’s a health issue, “said Salinas.

PAHO highlighted virtues of the octagonal system

Raúl Gonzélez (PAHO) highlighted the virtues of the octagonal labeling system for processed foods. He assured that it contributes to more comprehensible information so that consumers know the risks to their health and also allows the government to establish a regulation based on scientific facts. “The reaction of a person when observing a food product with an octagonal label is more effective in guiding the purchase intention, because it receives precise and clear information, in comparison to the traffic light nutrition system that confuses the consumer with the series of numbers combined in three colors and less legible letters,” he explained.

The specialist also highlighted the satisfaction of consumers in Chile, where this model of warnings was implemented more than a year ago. In that country the citizen’s purchase intention has been modified. “Which is a gain for public health and helps the industry to modify its products,” he said.

The complaint to Coca Cola for the nutritional information

Recently the representative of the Peruvian Association of Consumers and Users (ASPEC), Crisólogo Cáceres, reported that the INDECOPI (consumer protection agency), admitted a complaint against the manufacturer of Coca Cola, Fanta, Sprite, Inca Kola and other drinks. The complaint alleges that it violates the Consumer Protection and Defense Code because it does not provide correct and coherent information regarding the content in its different presentations. Also, the information does not include figures related to the size of the portion, in kilocalories, among others.

ASPEC requests uniformity in portion sizes in all presentations of sugary drinks, taking into account WHO recommendations. It also requests that the percentage of sugar contained in beverages be expressed, measured in relation to the recommended daily maximum consumption (50 grams per day), and that warnings be included in labels and any form of commercial communication.

Next steps

The Executive Branch has until April 3rd to observe or promulgate the bill. In case it is observed, the text will return to the Congress and it will be up to the legislators to accept the observations of the Executive or to insist on its publication.