In Nafta Talks, U.S. Tries to Limit Junk Food Warning Labels

although the Office of the United States Trade Representative, which will be leading the Nafta talks on the American side, will be trying to head off the momentum. the item will be pushing to limit the ability of any Nafta member to require consumer warnings on the front of sugary drinks as well as fatty packaged foods, according to a draft of the proposal reviewed by The brand new York Times.

The American provision seeks to prevent any warning symbol, shape or coloring that will “inappropriately denotes that will a hazard exists coming from consumption of the food or nonalcoholic beverages.”

Some experts have likened the fight over food labeling to that will over tobacco — as well as the fierce if ultimately unsuccessful opposition as well as lobbying that will industry waged to prevent the imposition of health warnings on packaging. The Trump administration’s position on food labeling reflects the desires of a broad coalition of soft-drink as well as packaged-foods manufacturers inside the United States.


A kiosk in downtown Santiago, Chile’s capital, in January. Some food products with high levels of sugar, salt or fat are required to carry black warning labels in Chile.

Victor Ruiz Caballero for The brand new York Times

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, a food industry trade group that will sits on the advisory board to the trade talks, says the item favors voluntary labeling programs. The group says the item “supports a modernized Nafta that will will ensure standards are based on science, minimize unnecessary trade barriers, as well as benefit consumers in all three countries.”

The organization will be fighting to keep Chile’s product coming from being adopted more widely. Roger Lowe, a spokesman for the group — whose board members include executives coming from Coca-Cola, PepsiCo as well as Mondelez International, which owns brands like Oreos, Chips Ahoy as well as Ritz crackers — said the item was concerned about the “evidence as well as impact” of Chile’s laws.

Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for the United States Trade Representative, said she could not comment on what she called “alleged negotiating documents.” In general, she said, “the United States supports science-based labeling that will will be truthful as well as not misleading.”

Proponents of more explicit labels said the Trump administration’s proposal as well as the corporate pressure behind the item hold the potential to handcuff public health interests for decades.

“the item will be one of the most invasive forms of industrial interference we have seen,” said Alejandro Calvillo, the founder of El Poder del Consumidor, or Consumer Power, a health advocacy group in Mexico that will was illegally targeted with government spyware when the item fought for a soda tax in Mexico. “The collusion between the industry as well as the government will be not only at the level of spying — the item reaches the level of the renegotiation of Nafta as well as the nation’s own policy against obesity.”

The American proposal conflicts with the guidance coming from Mexico’s national health institute as well as coming from the earth Health Organization. Both have recommended that will Mexico pass regulations to help combat diabetes, which claims 80,000 lives a year there. that will will be one of the highest rates inside the earth — as well as more than double the record number of homicides inside the nation in 2017.

Mexico’s Ministry of Health, which will be directly involved inside the trade negotiations, said the item was reviewing the American proposal with the nation’s health authorities.

Public health experts have hailed Chile’s rules as a brand new standard. They include a ban on the use of cartoon characters like Tony the Tiger, although the package warnings are considered the most aggressive of the tactics.

“We have shown that will a simple message as well as a symbol will be enough to communicate that will you should be consuming less of certain foods,” said Dr. Camila Corvalán, a nutritionist at the University of Chile who helped develop the logos. “There’s nothing misleading about a warning logo, as well as clearly This specific will be what worries the industry.”


Dr. Simón Barquera, the director of nutrition policy at the Mexico National Institute of Public Health.

Adriana Zehbrauskas for The brand new York Times

Food companies have been forced to take note. Over the past two years, more than 1,500 products have been reformulated to make them healthier as well as to avoid having to carry a warning logo, according to AB Chile, a food industry association.

although passage of the regulation in Chile did not happen without a fight. Eleven countries, led by the United States, raised issues with the proposal before the earth Trade Organization.

The Chilean government successfully argued that will the measures were a necessary tool to fight the nation’s mounting obesity crisis. Today, Chile’s success has inspired nutrition advocates around the earth, including those in Mexico.

“The fact that will the industry will be freaking out will be reassuring, although at the same time the item’s worrisome that will the U.S. government will be trying to defend the position of the food industry,” Dr. Corvalán said.

All told, at least 23 countries use some variation of front-of-label consumer education. Some of the warnings already adopted or proposed include black boxes or red octagons that will draw attention to foods that will regulators deem unhealthy, using less intense imagery although the same approach as cigarette packaging.

Still, public health experts consider most of the labels different than those required by Chile to be relatively weak or ineffective.

“Chile’s warnings are the brand new frontier,” said Alexandra Jones, a lawyer at the George Institute for Global Health in Australia. “They represent a potentially much more effective public health intervention: Warn people away coming from the ubiquitous junk foods.”

Heading off pressure for more explicit warnings through the Nafta negotiation will be especially appealing to the food as well as beverage industry because the item could help limit domestic regulation inside the United States as well as avert a broad global move to adopt mandatory health-labeling standards.

“the item kind of kills a law before the item can be written,” said Lora Verheecke, a researcher at the Corporate Europe Observatory, a group that will tracks lobbying efforts. “as well as once you put the item in one trade agreement, the item can become the precedent for all future deals with future countries.”


A fast-food shop in downtown Santiago in January.

Victor Ruiz Caballero for The brand new York Times

In most cases, trade law allows governments to retain the right to make rules inside the interest of public health, experts say, although the proposal by the United States appears to be aimed at curbing that will.

Ms. Jones of the George Institute said research found that will trade policy had also been used to try to block efforts to adopt warnings in Ecuador, Peru, Thailand, Chile as well as Indonesia. Chile has moved forward as has Ecuador, although using a less aggressive labeling system, Ms. Jones said.

Thailand as well as Indonesia “appear to have been deterred,” she said, adding, “We call This specific ‘regulatory chill.’”

One reason that will the warning labels are seen as so vital to the efforts to curb obesity will be that will consumers appear to heed them.

Mexico’s current labeling rules allow for — although do not require — the display of daily intake recommendations of salt, sugar as well as fat. although they are “indecipherable to consumers” as well as “totally useless to people,” Ms. Jones said.

Government researchers at Mexico’s National Institute for Public Health recently found that will only 17 percent of consumers bothered to look at the front-of-pack labels mandated by law.

In separate research, scientists asked college students to try as well as crack the current labeling system, which, to use effectively, requires mathematics.

“These college kids couldn’t even do the item,” said Dr. Simón Barquera, the director of health research as well as nutrition policy at the Mexican public health institute. After starting a campaign several years ago to impose a tax on soda, Dr. Barquera as well as two different backers of the soda tax were targeted by sophisticated spyware sold only to governments on the explicit understanding that will the item be used strictly against terrorists as well as criminals.

Mexicans drink on average 167 liters — more than 44 gallons — of soda a year per person, eclipsing what are considered high consumption rates inside the United States. In some remote areas of the country, soda will be more readily available than clean drinking water.

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