Attempts to reduce the visual appeal of consumer products – for health reasons – have been most noticeable in the tobacco sector to date. Some governments require graphic warnings on products and even ‘plain packaging’ – where trademarks must be removed or greatly limited; and colours and fonts standardised, so that the products are nearly indistinguishable.

A growing trend in the retail industry is the adoption of warning signs on packaging in the food and alcohol sectors. Disproportionate measures such as ‘plain packaging’ have not been implemented, but an increase in strategies to reduce the visual appeal of certain products is taking place.

One piece of major legislation that has attracted the attention of World Trade Organisation (WTO) members in the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) is an amendment to Chile’s Food Health Regulation.

Decree No. 13 of April 16, 2015, requires a warning message in the shape of a black octagon (similar to a ‘Stop’ sign for traffic) to be placed on the front of the package with the words ‘high in…’ when food products exceed certain levels of energy, sodium, sugar or saturated fats.

The development of the amendment dates back to July 2012, when Chile published a Law on the Nutritional Composition of Food and its Advertising. The move was to pursue the objectives of the Health Ministry’s ‘Choose Healthy Living’ programme, aimed at reducing consumption of so-called ‘critical’ nutrients.

This was a response to the increasing obesity rate and an apparent lack of consumer consciousness caused, in part, by the fact that Chileans are increasingly moving to cities, consuming more processed food and leading lives that are more sedentary.

This appears to be recognised internationally, including by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. It states that Chile ranks among the region’s top five members for the incidence of diabetes and has the world’s sixth-highest obesity rate (25%).


 

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