Latin America advances in a regulatory agenda for food front labeling
28 junio 2018



Labeling. The World Health Organization’s World Assembly (WHO), which concluded on May 26th, contributed to the regulatory agenda of its member states with a series of work guidelines related to the promotion of better nutrition and awareness in the consumption of foods. Different countries in Latin America made progress in the regulation of front food labeling systems during the month of June. Such is the case of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay that, through the Mercosur, agreed to promote a scheme of regional labeling. They did not specified which model they will apply. In the next two months, Colombia and Peru could count with new laws, while Ecuador and Chile will be deepening their current regulatory schemes.

The numerous bills under study in the countries of the region are not uniform in the choice of the labeling system. Some opted for the model of black octagonal stamps with white letters recommended by PAHO, including the Ministries of Health of Uruguay and Peru. Others chose the nutritional traffic light system, as can be seen in the bills presented in the Congresses of Peru and Argentina. In turn, the Argentina’s Ministry of Health is preparing an initiative that delegates the decision to the enforcement authority, as well as the bill that obtained a half sanction in Colombia, although in this case the use of the traffic light system was ruled out. In Brazil, the adjustment of the regulation is being analyzed by the National Health Surveillance Agency and from July 9th it will be known the opinion of the Executive branch in this issue.

The regional consensus, added to the influence of international organizations, can favor a convergence in the regulation of food labeling, that as has been seen in the cases of Argentina, Brazil and Peru, is still in the process of being defined. Regional schemes also aim to avoid the emergence of possible barriers to international trade.

So far, only Chile and Ecuador had made progress. The first, through the implementation of the frontal labeling of black octagonal stamps that is only one of the points of Law No. 20.606 sanctioned in 2012. Ecuador, meanwhile, prioritized the use of the nutritional traffic light system in the Substitute Health Regulation of Processed Foods for the Human Consumption passed in 2014. This labeling system will have the character of a law when the National Assembly of Ecuador passes the Organic Health Code in the coming months.

Next steps

Uruguay, Colombia and Peru could count on new food labeling rules in the next two months, while Argentina, Brazil and Guatemala are expected to make progress in their respective proposals during the second half of the year. With respect to the countries that already have regulations on the matter, Chile entered, on June 27th, in the second stage of implementation of Law 20,606 and Ecuador could raise its Substituted Sanitary Regulation for Processed Food to the law status next August.