Mexico Ministry of Health issues changes to food advertising laws and front-of-pack labeling

Last week, the Mexican Ministry of Health passed an amendment to two main regulations governing labeling and advertising of food products and beverages. The amendment intends to (i) harmonize the Regulations with the new front-of-pack (FOP) labeling specifications and (ii) ban the use characters, animations, cartoons, celebrities, athletes or mascots, interactive elements, such as visual-spatial games or digital downloads in the advertising of pre-packaged food and non-alcoholic beverages that exceed the nutritional criteria and contain warning seals and/or cautionary statements. Food and beverage companies will need to obtain an advertising permit to advertise products that include certain FOP elements. The provisions of the decree will become effective on a staggered basis, from September 9, 2022 to March 8, 2023.

Mexico's Ministry of Health published  "Decree that amends, adds and abrogates several provisions of the Regulations for the Sanitary Control of Products and Services and the Regulations of the General Health Law on Advertising" ("Regulations") in the Federal Official Gazette on September 8, 2022.

The main purpose of the amendments is to harmonize the Regulations with the recent Amendment to Mexican Official Standard NOM-051-SCFI/SSA1-2010, General Labeling Specifications for Pre-packaged Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages - Commercial and Sanitary Information and the General Health Law.

Below is a summary of the key amendments to the Regulations that are of significant impact:

Changes to Regulations Regarding the Sanitary Control of Products and Services  

    • Definitions: The amendments establish definitions for the following terms: (i) critical nutrients; (ii) portion; (iii) pre-packaged or packaged; and (iv) front labeling system.  They also omit the term "chocolate-like products" (productos similares al chocolate) and therefore its use as well.
    • Labeling: The amendments require use of a front labeling system and set obligations related to nutritional labeling. In particular, they prohibit the use of children's characters, animations, cartoons, celebrities, athletes or mascots, interactive elements (e.g., visual-spatial games or digital downloads) that promote or encourage the product’s consumption, purchase or choice on product labels directed to children that contain warning seals and/or cautionary statements.
    • Labeling: It also establishes a requirement to include cautionary statements in the labeling of pre-packaged food and non-alcoholic beverages whose components, raw materials, ingredients and additives represent a possible or immediate risk to consumer health. The foregoing as provided for in the different Official Mexican Standards.

For the purposes of the above, the Ministry of Health shall issue the standards for identifying which additives, ingredients or substances may be harmful to health. In accordance with the standard, pre-packaged food and non-alcoholic beverages containing such substances must include the necessary warning seals and/or cautionary statements.

    • Labeling: The changes amend the modified foods classifications by eliminating references to sugar and sodium.
    • Professional accreditations: Pre-packaged food and non-alcoholic beverages containing statements that the food has been recommended or recognized by professional societies or associations may only contain such statements when they specify the target population and specific health condition particular to the recommendation and do not include warning seals or cautionary statement. This does not apply to conditional claims, in accordance with the Federal Consumer Protection Law.

Changes to Regulations Regarding the General Law of Health in Advertising Matters

    • The advertising of pre-packaged food and non-alcoholic beverages must be congruous with the front-of-pack labeling and, as applicable, must include warning seals, cautionary statements, seals or statements of recommendation or recognition.
    • Authorization: When advertising a food or non-alcoholic beverage containing warning seals and cautionary statements is made  on television (open or paid), movie theaters, internet, and other digital platforms, the advertiser must obtain a permit before running the advertisement. Importantly, Internet and other digital platforms (e.g., social media) are now included in the list of advertising platforms, which were previously only required for traditional media advertising platforms like television and print. The Ministry of Health must publish the conditions for obtaining this permit and the advertising requirements for such food and non-alcoholic beverages within 90 days, or by January 18, 2023.
    • Characters: The use of children's characters, animations, cartoons, celebrities, athletes or mascots, interactive elements, such as visual-spatial games or digital downloads, in the advertising of pre-packaged food and non-alcoholic beverages containing warning seals and cautionary statements aimed at children, will be prohibited.

Finally, the Accord whereby the Guidelines referred to in Article 25 of the Regulation of Sanitary Control of Products and Services are issued, which must be observed by the producers of pre-packaged food and non-alcoholic beverages for the purposes of the information that must be displayed in the front display area, as well as the criteria and characteristics for obtaining and using the nutritional label, is abrogated.

Next steps

The Decree will come into force on September 9, 2022, with the exception of the amended provisions of the Regulations of the General Health Law on Advertising, which will come into force on March 8, 2023.

COFEPRIS has until January 18, 2023 to publish the amendments to the "Guidelines to disclose the nutritional and advertising criteria to be observed by advertisers of food and non-alcoholic beverages to advertise their products on open and paid television, as well as in movie theaters, pursuant to the provisions of articles 22 Bis, 79, section X and 86, section VI, of the Regulation of the General Health Law on Advertising."

We hope the above is useful and remain at your disposal to discuss questions regarding compliance.

 

 

Authored by Cecilia Stahlhut and Ernesto Algaba.

 

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