According to a World Trade Organization document, several first world countries (The United States, The European Union, Canada and Switzerland to name a few) oppose Mexico’s attempts to warn consumers about the health hazards of processed foods and drinks, believing that doing so may unnecessarily restrict trade with their countries.
Mexico is the largest consumer of processed foods in Latin America, and is the fourth-largest consuming country in the world. The struggle with high rates of diabetes and obesity has been exacerbated by COVID-19, as the virus tends to hit those with those afflictions even harder.
After Mexico joined the North American Free Trade Agreement in the early 1990s with the United States and Canada, obesity hit epic proportions because processed foods and drinks were much more easily available and accessible to the citizens of Mexico.
In an effort to battle these dangerous health risks, Mexico’s new standard for processed foods and drinks will take effect in October, and will require the fronts of foods to be labeled CLEARLY with the health risks involved if the product is high in calories, salts, sugars and fats–trans or saturated.
In a few words? The fronts-of-packages will now have to tell consumers what they’re about to eat before they do so.
Sounds benign, right? Informed consumers being able to make informed health choices about what they’re going to put in their bodies? Who wouldn’t want that?
Several first-world countries, it seems, most of whom who are home to the world’s biggest food companies.
The U.S., EU, Canada and Switzerland are some of Mexico’s biggest suppliers for processed foods and drinks, and they’re not fond of the new standard to share nutritional information right on the front of the package.
The minutes of a May 13-14, 20202 World Trade Organization meeting of the Committee on Technical Barriers to trade was just released. It shows that the United States Delegation supports the efforts of Mexico to reduce diet-related non-communicable diseases but was worried that the labeling may be more restrictive than it needed to be in order for Mexico to address their health concerns.
Basically, “If you tell them too much about what they’re doing to their bodies, they may stop, and that puts a hurt on OUR pocketbooks.”
Saying that Mexico will now have more stringent nutrition thresholds than those of other countries, the U.S. delegation joined Switzerland, Canada and the EU in opposing the proposed implementation date of October 1. The EU and U.S. sought a two-year delay of the implementation, while Canada asked for 12 extra months and Switzerland urged delay with no specific timeline.
The U.S. said that the delay was needed because of the unprecedented effect of the global pandemic on the food and beverage industry. It is reported that Coca-Cola Co (KO.N), PepsiCo Inc (PEP.O), Nestle (NESN.S) and Mexican breadmaker Grupo Bimbo (BIMBOA.MX) were among companies that asked for a delay.
But while the impact of COVID-19 has indeed been hard on the food and beverage industry, it still boils down to whether people or profits are more important.
Mexico’s private sector also leans toward opposing the new rules. Jaime Zabludovsky is the president of the lobby group ConMexio. ConMexico represents food and beverage companies and said the new labels would ‘confuse the public.’
In other words…new labels might actually convince people to make better health choices for themselves and demand that their companies start doing the same.
We know when we put a demand on companies to do better or we don’t buy, they eventually do better. It’s sad that it takes that push to convince them to think of public health over profit, but it’s the way of the world.
Mexico’s stance will force companies to do better or face losing money, as consumers making informed choices will be what leads their product lines. Just as it should be.