Back on track? Court revokes Mexican nutrition label suspension but Concamin vows to fight on

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

Under NOM-051, processed foods high in salt, fat and sugar will have to add a warning label to the front of their packaging. © GettyImages/Fascinadora
Under NOM-051, processed foods high in salt, fat and sugar will have to add a warning label to the front of their packaging. © GettyImages/Fascinadora

Related tags: Nutrition labeling, Obesity, Lobbying

Mexico's nutrition label is once again on path to enter into force as a court revokes the decision to provisionally suspend it, although industry says it will continue to oppose the regulation using "all legal means".

The Mexican court has revoked its decision to provisionally suspend the country’s warning nutrition label.

The black-and-white octagonal nutrition label, also known as NOM-051, was approved on 24 January​ and was set to enter into force until industry trade associations, Concamin and CCE, filed a legal petition requesting its suspension on the grounds it lacked scientific evidence and that all stakeholders were not adequately consulted.

This request, or amparo​, was granted by a judge last week​, paralyzing the regulation and prompting the Mexican government to appeal to the manufacturers’ “social conscience​” that they put Mexicans’ health first and withdraw their request.

However, on Friday (6 March), the general director of standards at the Ministry of Economy, Alfonso Guati, announced the decision had been unanimously made to revoke the suspension. 

The 21st Collegiate Circuit Court in Administrative Matters unanimously revoked a few minutes ago the suspension issued in favor of Concamin against NOM-051," ​he wrote on Twitter.

Concamin and CCE indicated, however, that they will not be giving up the fight.

“We respect the decision of the court, however, we reiterate that we will continue to make use of all legal means at our disposal to defend Mexicans’ right to information and health," ​they said in a joint statement.

“The intention of the business sector is to drive an open and purposeful dialogue with authorities, specialists and society to develop together a front-of-pack label that, as well as warning, informs​ [the consumer] about the precise contents of each food and non-alcoholic drink.”

According to food law and regulatory expert David Pineda Ereno, the court’s decision means the two processes – enforcing the regulation and the appeal to suspend it - will now run in parallel.

“It means that the ‘amparo’ appeal continues its path but at the same time the authorities can continue the process of the publication of the modified NOM-051,” ​he told FoodNavigator-LATAM.

'Consumer information before corporate interests'

The Alliance for Food Health, a network of non-profit organizations, welcomed the court’s decision, saying it showed the process of developing the nutrition label adhered to established legislation.

Javier Zúñiga, coordinator of legal affairs at consumer rights organization El Poder del Consumidor, a member of the Alliance for Food Health, said: “The decision of the court to revoke the provisional suspension not only protects the right to health of people against the interests of industries, it also reinforces what has been mentioned from civil society and academia: for the first time we have a democratic process based on scientific evidence and the industry will use any mechanism to block it. 

“This reflects how they will always put their interests before the right to information, health and food of people. In this case, the judiciary has guaranteed the rights of the people with its decision.”

The Mexican government’s strongly-worded appeal to Concamin and CCE​ argued that the public policies of previous decades had resulted in “the breakdown of the agri-food system” ​resulting in a lack of healthy, accessible food that has affected public health and caused serious problems such as malnutrition, obesity, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Hence the need to resume the process of creating NOM-051 in food labeling as one of the actions that warns the population about foods whose excessive content of critical ingredients damages their health and that of their children,” ​said the joint statement signed by the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP), and the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT).

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