PAHO, FAO and WHO recommend promoting labeling policies and taxation of unhealthy foods
1 agosto 2023


Healthy eating. Since the end of June and throughout July, PAHO, FAO and WHO recommended, on different occasions, measures to discourage the consumption of ultra-processed foods through nutritional food labeling and taxation. Thus, PAHO approved policy CE172/15 on the control of non-communicable diseases, while FAO issued a report on “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” and WHO approved a series of dietary guidelines on the consumption of fats and carbohydrates. All these documents could be taken into account by legislators or executive decision-makers in Latin America when promoting national regulatory adaptations to reduce the consumption of unhealthy products.

In early July, PAHO’s Executive Committee approved Policy CE172/15 for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in children, adolescents and young people. The document encourages the implementation of a package of cost-effective public policies known as the “best investments”, which include a reduction in salt consumption, elimination of trans fats, nutritional labeling on the front of packages, among other points. The FAO published the report “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World“, which indicates that the cost of healthy food in Latin America is the highest in the world. The document highlights that the average cost in the region reached USD 4.08 per person per day during 2021, being the world average of USD 3.66. Thus, it proposes, in order to make healthy foods more affordable in the face of the alternative of ultra-processed foods, to develop public policies aimed at imposing labels and taxes on unhealthy foods, among other points.

Finally, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the following dietary guidelines: Guidelines on saturated and trans fats for adults and children, Guidelines on total fat intake for the prevention of unhealthy weight gain in adults and children, and Guidelines on carbohydrate intake by adults and children. These guidelines serve as a guideline for updating countries’ dietary guidelines and as a basis for the development of public policies at the local level. 

In the first one, WHO recommends limiting saturated fat consumption to 10% of total energy intake or less, while WHO recommends reducing its intake to 1% of total daily energy. In the second one, it is advised to reduce fat intake to 30% of total energy intake or less. On the other hand, in the third one, the WHO recommends that carbohydrate intake should come from grain, vegetable and fruit derivatives, as well as fruit and vegetable intake should be 400 g per day, while dietary fiber intake should be 25 g in adults. In order to implement these recommendations, the organization proposes that member countries promote at the local level the front labeling of foods, the regulation of advertising of “unhealthy” foods and beverages, among other points.

Next steps

These publications could serve as a guide and methodological basis for governments and congresses in Latin America and the Caribbean to move forward with regulations in this area. Although at the moment there are no effective intentions to update guidelines or regulations on taxation and/or labeling, it is not excluded that the theoretical and practical corpus created by the entities could serve as a basis for future intentions of change.