Front labeling of food: the keys to the bill to be debated by the Senate

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It will be discussed in virtual session. It is a project agreed between legislators of the ruling party and the opposition and supported by the Executive.

It is a key day for the frontal food labeling project, a key tool in the framework of policies that promote healthy eating for the population and that, in Argentina, is still a pending debt. A bill agreed between the ruling party and the opposition, and that has the endorsement of the Executive, will seek to be approved this afternoon in the Senate.

The draft Law for the Promotion of Healthy Eating will begin to be debated at 2:00 p.m., after last week it obtained an opinion from the Health and Industry and Commerce commissions.

The initiative arose from the unification of 15 projects linked to the issue and is promoted jointly from the ruling party by the ruling party senators Anabel Fernández Sagasti and Silvia Sapag, and from the opposition by Gladys González, Julio Cobos and Silvia Giacoppo, among others.

During the committee meeting, the only ones to speak out against were the senators for Tucumán, Silvia Elías de Pérez and Beatriz Mirkin, who presented arguments in line with the defense of the sugar industry. Both announced that they will reject the project. Chambers that bring together food producers and non-alcoholic beverages also expressed their opposition to the proposed model and emphasized the need to opt for one harmonized with Mercosur.

For the first time, a labeling project also has the joint endorsement of the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries; and Productive Development. Last year, the intention to advance from the Executive with the front labeling castaway due to the lack of consensus between the competing models promoted by Health and Production.

“Guarantee the right to health and adequate food through the promotion of a healthy diet, providing simple and understandable nutritional information of packaged foods and non-alcoholic beverages, to promote assertive and active decision making, and safeguard the rights of consumers “is one of the main objectives of the standard.

The text establishes that packaged foods and non-alcoholic beverages, “in whose final composition the content of critical nutrients exceeds the values ​​established in accordance with this law, must include on the main face of the container a warning stamp“.

This seal, according to the project, will take the form of black octagons with white border and uppercase letters. The size of the seal may never be less than 5% of the surface of the main face of the container or be covered (partially or totally) by any other element.

The maximum values ​​for calories, total sugars, saturated fat and sodium must comply with the nutrient profile of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). That point is key, since from the industry -which opposes the black stamps model because it considers that “Demonizes” food– They oppose the adoption of this profile and promote one more aligned with the one recently authorized by Brazil, less rigid.

Sugar, vegetable oils, and nuts will be excepted of the obligation of the labeling.

The black stamp model is the one promoted by PAHO. It is known as the “Chilean model” because it was the first country to implement it, in 2016. It is also adopted by Uruguay and Peru. Studies carried out in the country and in the region showed that it is the one that allows a clearer, faster and more direct visualization, and that it has a greater impact on the modification of the purchase decision or intention, compared to other models such as the traffic light or the nutriscore.

In case of containing sweeteners, the container must also display this precautionary legend under the seals: “Contains sweeteners, not recommended for children.” And foods and beverages that present excess of some critical nutrient will not be able to incorporate complementary nutritional information (claims) in relation to that nutrient.

The project also establishes the prohibition of all forms of advertising of products that contain at least one critical nutrient in excess, which is aimed especially at children and adolescents, and the general population. And it also prohibits including child characters, animations, cartoons, celebrities, athletes or pets; the promise of prizes and participation in contests, among other incentives that promote the consumption of the product.

And it dedicates a chapter to the promotion of healthy eating in primary and secondary schools. At the same time, it “suggests” the prohibition of marketing, sale and promotion of food and beverages that contain a warning seal in these establishments.

The text provides that the established provisions begin to be implemented as of their publication in the Official Gazette, and must comply with a term no greater than 180 days since the entry into force. Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as cooperatives and suppliers of products from the family farming sector, may exceed the implementation limit within a period of no more than one year, with the possibility of an extension.

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