Mexican health commission backs warning nutrition label regulation

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Fascinadora
© GettyImages/Fascinadora

Related tags Nutrition Nutrition labelling Obesity Health

Mexico's Health Commission has approved a draft proposal to bring in front-of-pack nutrition warning labels and mandatory fortification in a bid to tackle obesity and malnutrition in the country.

Last week (24 July), the Health Commission of the Chamber of Deputies approved the draft opinion that proposes bringing in front-of-pack warning nutrition labels, like those in force in Chile ​and Peru​.

The draft opinion was approved with 24 votes in favor, zero against and two abstentions. It is expected to go before a plenary session in September and then to the Senate.

Mexico currently uses a nutrition labeling system based on Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) that has been ineffective in reducing obesity, which is on the rise.

In Mexico, seven out of ten adults and one in three children and adolescents are overweight or obese, according to a 2016 study by the National Institute of Public Health, while diabetes is the second leading cause of death in the country.

'Truthful, direct, simple and visible'

The draft opinion reforms the country’s General Health Law, adding several articles on front-of-pack warning labels and nutrition information on food and non-alcoholic drinks in order to tackle overweight and obesity.

The proposed changes state that food and drink packaging must include nutritional information that is “easy to understand, truthful, direct, simple and visible”.

Warning labels that indicate a product exceeds the maximum recommended limits for energy content, added sugars, saturated fats, sodium, and other critical nutrients must appear in addition to the ingredient list and nutrition information.

Critical nutrients refer to components of food that may be a risk factor for chronic non-communicable diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and will be determined by the Ministry of Health.

manufacturers may also be required to include logos or pictograms if the Ministry of Health deems it necessary.

According to the draft opinion, the Ministry of Health will establish the nutrient requirements, and warn the public not to exceed maximum limits for sugar, saturated fat, trans fats and sodium based on its own recommendations.

It will also make fortification of wheat and corn flour mandatory.

The legal expert's view: 'It is very likely this will be approved'

Now approved by the Health Commission, amendments will go before the Chamber of Deputies to continue with its legislative process. If approved, they will be published in the Federal Official Gazette.

Partner at law firm Hogan Lovells, Ernesto Algaba, expects this to happen.

"It is very likely that the proposed amendments to the General Health Law will be approved: the votes within the commission were 24 votes in favor, zero against, and two abstentions," ​he told FoodNavigator-LATAM.

"Given the labeling changes that are likely to be imposed, we know that Mexican food manufacturers have started to actively react and are working within the relevant industry associations ahead of the upcoming discussions at the Plenary of the Chamber of Deputies, which will include discussion of the details of the amendments and how to establish a transitional scheme to ensure the industry can comply with the changes."

Mexico's nutrition label battle

Earlier this year, Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice ruled the country’s System of Frontal Labeling of Food and Beverages (SEFAB) is constitutional and respects the public’s right to food, health, and information.

The decision was welcomed by the food industry, including ConMéxico, the trade group that represents the interests of Mexican food and drink manufacturers, but decried by civil society.

Ahead of the Supreme Court ruling, academics and experts of the National Institute of Public Health (INSP), a body that advises the Mexican government on public health policy, slammed SEFAB as “deficient and incomprehensible”, calling for Mexico to adopt warning labels.

Health commission debate

According to, Graciela Zavaleta Sánchez, member of the center-left National Regeneration Movement (Morena), clear nutrition labeling is necessary in Mexico where the right to healthy and nutritious food is a fundamental human right enshrined in the constitution.

Manuel Huerta Martínez, also a member of the Morena party, told members of the Health Commission that food manufacturers in Mexico hide the nutritional information of food to their own advantage, calling the proposed regulation was “the first step against obesity”.

Deputy Éctor Jaime Ramírez Barba, however, noted that the food industry generates employment and requested more budget to be allocated to the fight against obesity as well as integrating sport and physical education.

Ana Paola López Birlain, deputy from the center-right National Action Party (PAN) said that labeling alone would not solve Mexico’s obesity crisis, calling for an adequate budget that is required to raise awareness at a societal level.

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