Mexico's new warning labels on junk food meet supersized opposition from U.S., EU

By Anthony Esposito MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The United States, European Union, Canada and Switzerland, home to some of the world's biggest food companies, have pressed Mexico to delay upcoming health warnings on processed food and drinks, a World Trade Organization document showed. The Mexican standard, scheduled to take effect in October, will require front-of-pack nutrition labeling that clearly describes the health risks posed when those products are high in sugars, calories, salt, and saturated or trans fat

Reuters August 12, 2020 07:10:32 IST
Mexico's new warning labels on junk food meet supersized opposition from U.S., EU

Mexicos new warning labels on junk food meet supersized opposition from US EU

By Anthony Esposito

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The United States, European Union, Canada and Switzerland, home to some of the world's biggest food companies, have pressed Mexico to delay upcoming health warnings on processed food and drinks, a World Trade Organization document showed.

The Mexican standard, scheduled to take effect in October, will require front-of-pack nutrition labeling that clearly describes the health risks posed when those products are high in sugars, calories, salt, and saturated or trans fat.

Mexico, the largest consumer of processed food in Latin America and the fourth-largest in the world, has long struggled with high rates of obesity and diabetes. That health crisis has been exacerbated by the novel coronavirus, which hits people suffering from those illnesses particularly hard.

Obesity reached epidemic proportions in Mexico after it joined the North American Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Canada in the early 1990s, making processed food more easily available, several studies have shown.

Last week, the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca banned the sale, distribution and advertising of junk food and sugary drinks to children, becoming the nation's first state to do so.

According to WTO minutes of a May 13-14 meeting of the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade, published on Monday, the U.S. delegation said it supports Mexico's public health objective of reducing diet-related non-communicable diseases but that it was concerned the planned labeling may be "more trade restrictive than necessary to meet Mexico's legitimate health objectives."

"Mexico has chosen more stringent nutrient thresholds than the thresholds set by other countries," the U.S. delegation said, citing the views of the government and nine trade groups.

The United States, Switzerland, Canada and the EU opposed the Oct. 1 implementation date. Washington and the EU sought a two-year delay while Canada asked for the start to be pushed back 12 months. Switzerland urged postponement without specifying a timeline.

Washington said a delay was needed "in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which has placed significant pressure on the food and beverage industry."

The Mexican government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But a Mexican government official with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be named, said: "We told them there would be no additional time."

Pepita Barlow, assistant professor of health policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said countries that are home to major multi-national food corporations such as Switzerland, the United States and EU most frequently opposed new food standards, focusing on trade costs and profits.

The Mexican government official said the countries opposing Mexico's standard were acting in a last-ditch effort to derail the changes and putting their concerns ahead of public health.

The Mexican private sector has also opposed the new rules. Jaime Zabludovsky, president of lobby group ConMexico which represents food and beverage companies, recently said the labels would confuse the public, according to Mexican media outlet Aristegui Noticias.

The government official said Coca-Cola Co , PepsiCo Inc , Nestle and Mexican breadmaker Grupo Bimbo were among companies that asked for a delay.

The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Representatives at the U.S., EU, Canadian and Swiss embassies did not respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.