Within a maximum period of six months, in Argentina processed foods with excess salt, sugar and fats must warn with black octagons that are well visible to the consumer. These foods may not include drawings or other elements that attract the attention of children and adolescents, nor will it be possible to sell them in educational centers. These measures are contemplated in the law to promote healthy eating that was approved by the Argentine Congress on Tuesday night by 200 votes in favor, 22 against and 16 abstentions. The objective of the new regulation, which was strongly opposed by the industry, is to favor the fight against obesity, hypertension and heart risks derived from a poor diet.
Current food labels “are misleading and sometimes illegible,” said Cecilia Moreau, a deputy for the ruling Frente de Todos. “We are not legislating, no matter how much lobby there has been, on any industry, we do not want to prohibit the commercialization of any food. We just want to assure the consumer that we are giving them concise information about what we consume, “he added.
According to data presented in the parliamentary debate, 66% of the 45 million inhabitants of Argentina are overweight, 32% are obese, and 42% suffer from high blood pressure. The change in labeling seeks to improve the nutrition of children and adolescents, since, according to 2019 figures, Argentina was the South American country with the highest number of children under five years of age with excess weight, 13.6%. The figure skyrocketed to 41% in those between the ages of five and 17.
The problem has worsened since then, as warned by the Argentine Pediatric Society. In the year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been much more difficult for families to eat healthy due to the increase in food prices – 53.6% in the last year – above wages –47.4 % – and by the closure of schools. The restriction of spaces for physical activity also led to an increase in the overweight of the child and adolescent population.
“This law is necessary because we are facing a great epidemic: that of being overweight,” said the deputy of the opposition coalition Together for Change Brenda Austin. Although his bloc was the one that contributed the highest number of negative votes, Austin applauded the triumph of the defense of the right to health over the political rift.
The new legislation also establishes that products containing sweeteners or caffeine must inform that their consumption is not recommended for girls and boys. Given the equality of conditions, the State must prioritize the purchase of food without warning stamps, a significant measure in the South American country given the great food assistance to the most vulnerable population.
The Minister of Health, Carla Vizzotti, celebrated the approval of a law that is “a vital tool to make informed decisions, prevent chronic diseases and improve the diet of each Argentine and each Argentine.”
The new legislation follows the steps taken in other countries in the region, such as Chile, Uruguay and Mexico.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.