November 7, 2022

Washington D.C. and Mexico City, November 7, 2022

Read in Spanish.

On November 9, 2022, the Second Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico will have the opportunity to support front-of-package labeling, a measure that seeks to address the country’s epidemic of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). The discussion will take place in relation to one of the hundreds of lawsuits presented by the food and beverage industry against the law that adopted this labeling system. The Supreme Court’s pronouncement will be key for the protection of public health and human rights of all persons. For these reasons, the Global Center for Legal Innovation on Food Environments presented an intervention before the Mexico Supreme Court, demonstrating how this labeling practice complies with the human rights obligations of the Mexican state.

Since October 2020, pre-packaged edible products and drinks high in sugar, sodium, and trans and saturated fats sold in Mexico carry an octagonal label. Likewise, products with sweeteners (components that add a sweet flavor) and caffeine carry symbols that prevent their consumption by children. Known as front-of-package warning labeling, this system is a key measure for disincentivizing the consumption of unhealthy products associated with the development of NCDs, including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. These diseases are responsible for a high proportion of both deaths and negative impacts on the wellbeing of populations at a global, regional, and national level, and constitute such a serious problem that reducing premature deaths attributed to NCDs has been included as a goal in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The front-of-package warning labeling system adopted by Mexico in 2020 is one of the most robust in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the region leading in this type of measure to protect public health and prevent NCDs. Moreover, according to the best scientific literature free of conflicts of interest, this is the most effective type of labeling for disincentivizing the consumption of unhealthy products.

Additionally, as the Global Center for Legal Innovation on Food Environments presents in their intervention, front-of-package labeling is a measure that materializes the human rights obligations of the state of Mexico. Thus, by adopting these measures, the state ensures that the food and beverage industry provides complete, simple, and easily understandable information to consumers about the harmful content of their products, and, in this way, contributes to guaranteeing the rights to health, healthy food, information, equality, and the right to benefit from scientific progress and its applications.

Although this labeling scheme seeks to protect the health and human rights of all people, numerous food and beverage companies in Mexico have filed hundreds of lawsuits to prevent its application. These lawsuits were initially filed by a business sector association that would be bound by the regulation to prevent the technical standard (NOM) that contains the labeling specifications from being published, and have pushed for these standards not to be applied. Four of these lawsuits are currently being heard by the Supreme Court of Justice, and one of them will be discussed in the coming days.

With its system of warning labels, Mexico strengthens a suite of mutually reinforcing measures that generate healthy food environments — in which people can enjoy the highest possible standard of physical and mental health, eat well, make informed decisions, and overcome the disproportionate impact that NCDs have on vulnerable groups.

The support of the Supreme Court on this important measure will contribute to strengthening the decisive action taken by the Mexican state in complying with its human rights obligations and protecting public health in the face of the serious problem of NCDs.