Judge suspends Mexico's nutrition label

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/fergregory
© GettyImages/fergregory

Related tags: Nutrition labeling, Obesity, Lobbying

A judge has temporarily suspended Mexico’s front-of-pack warning label following a request lodged by business lobbies on the grounds it was not widely consulted or based on scientific evidence.

UPDATE: Mexico authorities voted to revoke the suspension of NOM-051. Click here to read the latest.

Mexico’s Confederation of Chambers of Commerce, Concamin, and business trade group CCE, whose members include food and drink association ConMéxico, requested the suspension of the recently approved regulation​, known as NOM-051, that seeks to introduce warning nutrition labels on food products with high levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat.

The request was accepted by the seventh district judge, Laura Gutiérrez Romo, on 26 February, and is being studied by the Ministries of the Economy and Health, which will decide whether to make the suspension definitive.

'Reasonable doubts'

“This shows that there are reasonable doubts regarding the transparency and legality of the consultation process and the approval of the norm,” ​said a joint statement published by Concamin and CCE, arguing that it did not take into account scientific evidence, studies, and international commitments.

“Therefore, the business sector felt obliged to go through legal channels so that the right to an inclusive, transparent and legally rigorous process prevails.”

The trade associations added that the suspension of the norm presented a new opportunity to continue the process of developing “the best label possible for all Mexicans”.

The consultation process to develop Mexico's black-and-white octogonal warning label received over 5,200 comments and was described by the Mexican government as “the most inclusive […], the most democratic and the most transparent​”.

UNICEF: 'The label is based on solid evidence'

Stakeholders that supported the labeling decried industry interference in public health policy-making and urged Mexico’s Federal Judiciary to review the decision.

According to consumer rights organization El Poder del Consumidor, business lobbies in Chile and Peru used the same strategies to delay and prevent mandatory warning labels from entering into force. In both cases, the judiciary upheld the regulation in question and the countries introduced front-of-pack labeling, it noted.

Quetzalli Ramos, an expert lawyer in health, said: “We trust that the Judicial Branch will study the matter thoroughly and deny the provisional suspension […]  since it would be damaging the interest of society.”

Christian Skoog, representative for United Nations agency UNICEF in Mexico, called on the government to lift the temporary ​suspension so that the label is adopted as soon as possible. "The well-being of our children can no longer be postponed,” ​Skoog said. “The front-of-pack label is based on solid evidence, has been designed through robust methodologies and is aimed at objectively targeting public health measures for the benefit of the population. There is no doubt."

UNICEF, which participated in developing the label, said it found the consultation process to be transparent with broad participation from the beginning to the end of actors from different sectors, including government, academia, civil society organizations, and representatives of the food and beverage industry. 

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