Glass filled with sugar cubesOn September 7, 2016, the Colombian Industry and Commerce Superintendence issued a resolution according to which it ordered the Asociación Colombiana de Educación al Consumidor (EDUCAR) to immediately cease broadcasting a TV commercial related to the consumption of sugary drinks, alluding in the order to their adverse effects on health. Moreover, it ordered EDUCAR to submit for approval any commercials that would like to broadcast in the future regarding the consumption of sugary drinks.

The resolution was vastly condemned as a blatant violation of national and international norms protecting the freedom of expression, which obliges to provide clear and truthful information for the protection of health.

Fortunately, on April 5th 2017, the Colombian Supreme Court of Justice ruled in favor of the tutela filed by several NGOs, including Dejusticia and other organizations from the Alianza por la Salud Alimentaria in defense of the right to free access to information.

In particular, the Court recognized the right of consumers to “access information on the positive and negative consequences that consuming a particular product may have on their physical and mental integrity”. Furthermore, it held that consumers “are not passive users but deliberating citizens, who, in meeting their vital, social and commercial needs… have the right to demand, receive and impart information and ideas about the risks to which their health may be exposed”. Additionally, the Court stressed that “the State incurs a violation of the obligation to respect when there is a deliberate concealment or misrepresentation of information that is of fundamental importance for the protection of health”.

This ruling is of special importance to the region since one of the main risk factors that underlie the occurrence of non-communicable diseases (NCD) is the unhealthy diet, which includes particularly “sugary drinks” and, according to the Pan American Health Organization, NCDs “are the leading case of morbidity, mortality and premature mortality in the Americas”. Moreover, Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) urges States to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” and seeks to “reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment” by 2030.