Labeling. On August 31st, the Uruguayan government issued a decree establishing the application of a front warning label for products high in fat, sugar and sodium. The MERCOSUR chambers of food industries, such as COPAL in Argentina, CEPALI in Paraguay and CIALI in Uruguay, expressed their concern through various means and demanded an agreed labelling policy at the regional level. They argue that the lack of a common standard will end up generating barriers and higher trade costs that could complicate the sustainability of the sector. COPAL (Chamber that gathers the companies of the food sector of Argentina) announced that they will present a policy statement at the B20 meeting that will take place on October 4th and 5th in Buenos Aires.
The strongest reactions against the Uruguayan government’s measure took place in Paraguay, where the president of the Chamber of Food Companies (CEPALI) assured that “Uruguayan labelling does not respect what was agreed by Mercosur, so it will work as a para-tariff measure, which will complicate regional trade”. As spokesman for the industry, he said he did not disagree with food labeling, as long as it moves forward in a consensual way. This will avoid unnecessary costs.
In response to these arguments, MERCOSUR parliamentarians promoted a proposal for a recommendation to the Common Market Council, in which they requested the harmonization of the regulations for nutritional labelling of foods and the standardization of their implementation by the States Parties. The proposal will be considered in November by the Parlasur´s floor, which is empowered to issue statements and reports on issues related to the integration process.
The COPAL followed the declarations of the CEPALI. They warned that the barriers to trade can put in risk the sustainability of a sector composed mainly by small and medium companies that already face in Argentina a tributary pressure superior to 40%. The Food Industry Chamber (CIALI) of Uruguay also predicted the possible impacts of the measure in terms of job losses. Beyond these reactions, in Argentina some companies have decided to anticipate possible regulations by incorporating their own labels to their packaging.
On October 4th and 5th, the chambers of the food industry will present a policy statement at the meeting of the G20 affinity group that brings together representatives of the business sector. On the other hand, in November the Parlasur will consider in its floor session the proposal of recommendation made by Paraguayan parliamentarians to promote the harmonization in the regional block of the regulation of nutritional labeling.