International organizations call for further tax and labelling measures to discourage the consumption of ultra processed products.
28 noviembre 2019


Food security. On November 12, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) published the report entitled Overview of Food and Nutritional Security in Latin America and the Caribbean 2019, which urges states to tax ultra processed food and proposes front labeling and subsidies for access to healthy food. It is hoped that in the course of 2020 the report will be acted on by the region’s legislators and Executive branches. 

The report outlines four key sections on regulatory guidelines to combat obesity: Promotion, advertising and information of food products; Promoting economic access to healthy diets; Improving food quality and safety; ensuring availability and physical access to food.

With regard to front-end food labelling, the report mentions the interpretative labelling system as a model to follow, featuring a graphic system of textual information and horizontally positioned coloured bars. For the agencies that drafted the document, nutrition warning front labeling systems “can inform the consumer easily and quickly when products contain excessive amounts of sugar, fat and/or salt/sodium.

To achieve economic access to healthy diets, experts suggest that countries develop a fiscal policy to promote adequate food, to discourage the consumption of ultra processed foods through taxes on unhealthy foods, and to recommend the consumption of those nutritious and natural products. The report gives as an example the WHO-recommended placement of “fruit and vegetable subsidies of between 10% and 30% to increase consumption and target lower income populations”. 

Next steps

The UN, through four agencies, is pushing for Latin American member states to implement regulatory policies to tax ultra-processed foods, implement front labeling and facilitate access to a healthy diet, with the aim of reducing obesity and malnutrition in the region.

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