Last week, Mexico’s health ministry passed an amendment to two key regulations governing the labeling and advertising of food and beverage products. The amendment seeks to (i) align the Regulations with the new Front-of-Package (FOP) labeling specifications and (ii) prohibit the use of characters, animations, cartoons, celebrities, athletes or mascots, interactive elements, such as games or digital downloads in advertising prepackaged foods and non-alcoholic beverages that exceed nutrient criteria and contain warning seals and/or health warnings . Food and beverage companies will need to obtain an advertising permit to advertise products containing certain FOP elements. The provisions of the decree will come into force on a staggered basis, from September 9, 2022 to March 8, 2023.
The Mexican Health Agency published “Decree that modifies, adds and repeals several provisions of the Regulations on Sanitary Control of Products and Services and the Regulations of the General Health Law on Advertising” (“Regulations”) in the Journal federal official 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 Prepackaged Foods and Non-Alcoholic Beverages – Commercial and Health Information and Health Law.
Below is a summary of the main amendments to the Regulations that have a material impact:
Changes to the regulations concerning the health control of products and services
- Definitions: The amendments establish definitions for the following terms: (i) critical nutrients; (ii) portion; (iii) prepackaged or packaged; and (iv) front labeling system. They also omit the term “chocolate-like products” (chocolate-like products) and therefore its use as well.
- Labeling: The amendments require the use of a front labeling system and set out obligations related to nutrition labelling. In particular, they prohibit the use of children’s characters, animation, cartoons, celebrities, athletes or mascots, interactive elements (for example, visual-spatial games or digital downloads) that promote or encourage the consumption, purchase or choice of the product on product labels intended for children that contain warning seals and/or warnings.
For the purposes of the above, the Ministry of Health publishes standards to identify additives, ingredients or substances that may be harmful to health. According to the standard, prepackaged foods and non-alcoholic beverages containing such substances must carry the necessary warning seals and/or warnings.
- Labeling: The changes alter the modified food classifications by removing references to sugar and sodium.
- Professional Accreditations: Prepackaged foods and non-alcoholic beverages containing statements indicating that the food has been recommended or recognized by professional societies or associations may contain such statements only where they specify the target population and health condition specific to the recommendation and do not include warning or cautionary seals. This does not apply to conditional claims, in accordance with the Federal Consumer Protection Act.
Amendments to the regulation relating to the general health law in terms of advertising
- Advertising of prepackaged foods and non-alcoholic beverages must be consistent with front-of-package labeling and, where applicable, must include warning seals, cautions, seals, or recommendation statements or recognition.
- Permission: When advertising a food or non-alcoholic beverage containing warning seals and health warnings on television (open or pay), in cinemas, on the Internet and on other digital platforms, the advertiser must obtain a license before broadcasting the advertisement. Above all, Internet and other digital platforms (e.g., social media) is now included in the list of advertising platforms, which was previously only required for traditional media advertising platforms like TV and print. The Ministry of Health must publish the conditions for obtaining this license and the advertising requirements for these foods and non-alcoholic beverages within 90 days, which is no later than 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 prepackaged foods and non-alcoholic beverages containing warning seals and child warnings will be prohibited.
Finally, the agreement whereby the guidelines referred to in Article 25 of the Sanitary control regulations for products and services are issued, which must be observed by producers of prepackaged foods 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 obtaining and using the nutrition labelis repealed.
The decree will enter into force on September 9, 2022, with the exception of the amended provisions of the regulation of the general health law on advertising, which will enter into force on March 8, 2023.
COFEPRIS has until January 18, 2023 to publish changes to the “Guidelines for disclosing the nutrition and advertising criteria to be met by advertisers of food and non-alcoholic beverages to advertise their products on open and pay television , as well as in cinemas, in accordance with the provisions of articles 22 bis, 79, section X and 86, section VI, of the regulation of the general law on health relating to advertising.”