Front-end labeling of food and beverages in Mexico

The Food and Beverage Frontal Labeling System (SEFAB), together with other actions such as the regulation of the sale of food in the school environment, educational campaigns, regulation of the advertising of energy foods aimed at children, among others, established to help control obesity and chronic non-communicable diseases.

Overweight and obesity in Mexico

The Mexican population that suffers from overweight and obesity went from 71.3% to 75.2% in adults over 20 years of age in just 6 years from 2012 to 2018.

And people with diabetes went from 9.2% to 10.3% (8.6 million sick people) according to the National Health and Nutrition Survey (ENSANUT 2018).

The survey indicates that 64.6% of children between the ages of 5 and 11 consume snacks, sweets, and desserts, and 35.4% of adults 20 years of age or older consume these products.

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The consumption of sugary drinks is 85.7% for these same age groups, which increases the intake of calories, sodium, sugars and saturated fats in the usual diet.

It is estimated that more than 70% of deaths in adults are caused by chronic non-communicable diseases.

Both diet and eating habits have caused substantial changes in the last 40 years, in addition to the fact that energy consumption (kcal) per capita in Mexico and worldwide increased by 580 kcal/day according to a study published in Nutr Rev. 2012 and that trend prevails.

This is attributed to several factors, including the increase in the consumption of processed energy foods.

It is stipulated that more than 58% of the total energy (Kcal) consumed by Mexicans is from the consumption of processed foods, according to some studies, including the one published in the magazine Food Policeand in 2014.

This trend is associated with the increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity, considered a serious public health problem in Mexico, as observed in some studies, including the one published in ENSANUT 2012 and in Salud Publica Mex in 2013.

Front labeling system

In Mexico, in October 2020, the Frontal Labeling System came into force and replaced the daily food guides (GDA). Which has specifications stipulated in the modification of the Official Mexican Standard NOM-051-SCFI/SSA1-2010.

After an evaluation carried out by labeling experts and researchers from the National Institute of Public Health at the request of the Ministry of Health, through studies with a significant sample of the population that determined the need to modify the daily dietary guidelines (GDA) due to their low level of understanding.

This new labeling consists of 5 octagon-shaped warning seals, which clearly, simply and visibly indicate if a product contains excess of any critical nutrient or ingredient.

The frontal labeling consists of 5 warning seals:

-Excess calories.

-Excess sugars.

-Excess saturated fat.

-Excess trans fats.

-Excess sodium.

This labeling contains 2 precautionary legends:

-Contains sweeteners, not recommended for children.

-Contains caffeine- avoid in children.

Warning labeling of small products ≤40 cm2

Products with main display area
is ≤40 cm2 must include a single stamp with the number that corresponds to the amount of nutrients that meet the nutritional profile.

These “micro-seals” indicate the number of critical health ingredients per product. To find out which ingredient is in excess, you should consult the normal version of the product in the nutritional table or list of ingredients. They can contain from 1 to 5 stamps.

Likewise, it was specified as of April 2021 that products containing 1 or more warning stamps or the legend of sweeteners cannot include children's characters, cartoons, animations, among others, on the label.

Since they can promote and encourage the consumption of products with excess critical nutrients or with sweeteners in the child population.

Evaluation of the Impact of frontal warning labeling

The National Institute of Public Health (INSP) mentions in a statement in 2021 that to evaluate the results of the implementation of frontal warning labeling, a comparative analysis of sales of products with and without seals could be used before and after its implementation, as other countries like Chile have done.

This communication mentions that another way to evaluate the effectiveness of warning labeling is through a cohort study of the characteristics of the diet and types of foods consumed before and after the implementation of front-end labeling.

This study is currently being developed by the INSP and will allow the results to evaluate if there is a change in the diet of the participants after its implementation.

Source: National Institute of Public Health (INSP), Official Standard NOM-051, Manual for the Modification of Standard NOM-01.

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Nathan Rivera
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