International treaties such as the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) recognize labeling as a common tool used by governments to protect human health.1 Considering that Mexico faces important rates of mortality related to diseases such as obesity2, diabetes and cardiovascular problems, as part of new public policies, the Mexican authorities propose to implement new frontal labeling requirements for processed foods3, aimed to achieve the declared objective of: "informing the consumer clearly and truthfully about the content of critical nutrients that pose risks to their health in excessive consumption."4
The new proposed regulation was published on Oct. 11, 2019, in Mexico's Official Gazette, and modifies the existing Official Mexican Standard (NOM)5 identified as: "NOM-051-SCFI/SSA1 on general specifications of labelling for food and non-alcoholic beverages pre-packaged - commercial and sanitary information."6
The draft amendment of NOM-051-SCFI/SSA1establishes the introduction of graphical warnings on the products (see figure above for reference), highlighting the excessive content of calories, sugars, saturated fats, trans fats or sodium in a product and identifying those products that include caffeine and are not recommended for consumption by children.7
With the proposed amendments, Mexico joins previous efforts adopted by other Latin American countries such as Chile, Peru and Ecuador8, although the effectiveness of those regulations are still subject to debate.9 In a recent interview, however, Mexico's Undersecretary for Health Prevention and Promotion noted that the labeling regulations in Chile have led to a reduction of at least 20 percent in the consumption of products that are excessive in sugars, fats and calories.10
The impacts of this new labeling in the Mexican market are still under discussion. Compliance with the labeling regulations for foreign-made products will be the responsibility of marketers or importers at the point of entry. The required labeling will have to be placed at the front of the package, as is already mandated in the current NOM-051-SCFI/SSA1, but the size of the octagonal signalization will most likely require a redesign of existing packaging.11
Due to the potential impacts of the regulations, the public has 60 days from the publish date of Oct. 11 to submit comments to Mexico's Ministry of Economy or the Federal Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS). The comment...