On October 22, Mexico’s legislators passed a bill to reform the General Health Law (in Spanish, “Ley General de Salud”) to include front-of-package warning labels. In both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the bill passed in a landslide: in the House of Representatives, there were 458 in favor, 2 abstentions, 0 against; in the Senate, 114 in favor, 2 abstentions, 0 against. The result was celebrated by El Poder del Consumidor, a prominent non-governmental organization, as the victory of public health over the interests of a few. Now the debate turns to the regulation of front-of-package warning labels itself, which should be determinantal of the policy’s outcome.
It is important to mention that front-of-package warning labels have already been adopted in other countries. For example, years ago, Chile implemented this system in order to allow consumers to identify, in a clear and simple way, whether a given product had high amounts of sugars, saturated fats, sodium, and calories. The Health Department was especially concerned about children’s ability to distinguish healthy and unhealthy products. The Pan American Health Organization has been tracking the continent’s progress in implementing front-of-package labeling, and has stated that evidence from the Chilean experience indicates that this system has been effective in improving decision-making among consumers. This is important because it puts the Mexican debate in context: it is not about guessing, since front-of-package warning labels have been adopted before – and are working.
The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.