PAHO holds regional seminar to promote the application of octagonal warning stamps on foods
30 agosto 2022


Food labeling. On August 30, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) held a meeting entitled “The superiority of octagonal warning stamps in Central America and the Caribbean”. The objective of the event was to present the results of different studies carried out in countries such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Jamaica and Panama on the effectiveness of the implementation of different front-of-package food labeling (EPFE) systems and their policy implications in the countries of the region that do not yet have regulations in this regard. It is expected that PAHO will continue to hold meetings with private and public sector stakeholders to encourage the implementation of food labeling legislation in the medium term.

During the event, officials from regional Ministries of Health invited to the meeting stated that the excessive intake of nutrients such as sugars, fats and sodium is largely the result of the widespread availability and promotion to the population of processed and ultra-processed food products, which contain excessive amounts of these nutrients. In this sense, they indicate that the application of front-of-package labeling seeks to inform consumers about the excessive amounts of these types of critical nutrients that different foods may contain. 

They also point out that regional legislation in terms of different nutritional warning systems has led to a decrease in the consumption of beverages and ultra-processed foods, citing studies conducted in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Jamaica and Panama on the effectiveness of octagonal warning labels (ADV) over other systems such as the traffic light system (SEM), the Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) system and the Nutri-Score (NUS) system. Thus, according to PAHO members, the results of these studies support the conclusion that reducing the level of consumption of prepackaged foods with high levels of sugar and fat consists in the application of laws and regulations that implement the front labeling system of octagonal warnings in order to prevent non-communicable diseases in the regional population related to what they consider to be poor nutrition.

Next steps

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), together with officials from regional health authorities, members of civil society and policy makers, held a seminar to promote the application of the octagonal food warning labeling system in Latin American countries that have not yet made progress in its incorporation. Using the shared experiences of El Salvador, Panama, Jamaica and Costa Rica, those present at the event were encouraged to propose projects for the implementation of this type of labeling at the local level (without legislation on the subject) and to address their concerns at future events of the international organization. In addition, based on what was discussed, countries that already have front-end labeling systems, such as Colombia, Peru and Mexico, could propose and evaluate possible modifications and improvements to their regulations. 

Opportunity for engagement 

In order to continue urging Latin American countries that do not yet have legislation in force on food labeling with octagonal seals, it is likely that the Pan American Health Organization will continue to encourage spaces for conversation and debate on the subject with the participation of representatives of civil society, health officials and members of the private sector in order to enrich these instances with various proposals and opinions. These actors will also be able to participate at the local level in legislative or executive discussions on the implementation of this type of labeling.