Front-of-package food labeling. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published a report entitled “Front-of-pack nutrition labeling (FOPWL) in Latin America and the Caribbean“. The document compiled 45 studies or reports on nutrition labeling systems in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The report concludes that FOPWL favors the easy identification of products with excess nutrients and also promotes the reduction of purchases of such products. It also proposes a series of considerations for the implementation of this type of policies, which could be taken into account for the formulation of public policies on the subject by public officials and legislators in the region.
The report is published in a context in which overweight and obesity have increased over the last 20 years in LAC and is higher than the world average. To this end, the organizations consider that the FOPWL is a cost-effective policy that contributes to counteracting the increase in obesity, and that it is a key policy to promote the consumption of healthy diets. The document notes that the implementation of a mandatory FOPWL, together with the regulation of foods served and sold in schools, marketing restrictions, food and nutrition education, among others, is more effective than isolated voluntary schemes in preventing the increase of overweight and obesity.
The report maps the current state of FOPWL systems in LAC. It mentions that 10 out of 33 LAC countries have enacted FOPWL legislation or regulations: five implemented nutritional warnings in the form of black octagons (Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay); two have enacted laws and are in the process of implementing similar systems (Colombia and Venezuela); Ecuador applies a traffic-light type FOPWL that is not mandatorily located on the front; Brazil will implement an FOPWL with black rectangles and magnifying glass; and Bolivia approved a traffic-light type FOPWL, but which has not yet been implemented.
The study confirms that octagonal warnings best serve the purpose of identifying products with excessive critical nutrients. Also, based on the evidence and cases analyzed, it outlines a series of final considerations, including: placing children and adolescents at the center of discussions, debates and decision-making on the FOPWL; complementing these policies with food-based dietary guidelines that discourage the consumption of products excessive in critical nutrients; and coordinating actions on this issue between the public sector, the private sector, academia and civil associations, among other considerations.
Engagement opportunity for McDonald’s
The report highlights that the role of stakeholders is important for the fulfillment of public policy. Regarding the private sector, the document notes that it has an important part in the implementation of food labeling through compliance with public policy. While civil society plays a fundamental role in the positioning of initiatives in favor of the health of the population, but also in the monitoring and enforcement of compliance with the regulations. Particularly McDonald’s will be able to participate in the discussion and formulation of laws in Latin American parliaments where such initiatives have not yet advanced or its progress is very gradual. They will be able to do so, for example, through presentations at public hearings, such as in the commissions that enable external interlocutors. In addition, they will also be able to participate through comments and observations in the public consultations that the Executive Branches enable for the implementation of the FOPWL.