There are currently no strict rules in Colombia on how food products sold on the shelves of supermarkets, medium-sized businesses and shops should be labeled and, of course, daily consumption.
The pledge of Law 214 of 2018 is to apply a regulation similar to that established in other Latin American countries, so that on the front of the labels there is clear information about the processed foods that consumers buy.
This initiative focuses primarily on the concept of disinformation, claiming that the current forms of labeling are not clear, neither specific nor explicit.
Although nutritional information can be found in them, it is not a secret that a large proportion of the population (with the exception of experts) can read or interpret what each of the elements included in it is.
The law, which was set up in 2018, would hold its first debate in the House of Representatives in late June, but on issues unrelated to the speakers that day, the project was on the agenda of the Congress of the Republic.
You may be interested in: Electronic cigarettes: a trend without any regulation in Colombia
Fabian Diaz, a representative of the Santandereana Chamber of Alternative Government, is one of the authors of the law and explains that what they are looking for is that "people have informed consumption; who can identify ultra-processed products. "
"We have revealed the importance of these labels, which in the worst case have led to confusion among parents," says the congressman.
In the time elapsed since the fall of the law, a few things happened. For example, in Plaça de Bolivar, in Bogota, some political movements set a banner that insisted the government re-discuss this initiative.
However, this must wait until July 20, when a new piece of legislation is opened. After this date, lawmakers can re-use their power to submit the project back to Congress.
The idea is mainly that if the proposal succeeds in overcoming the debates it has to overcome to become a law, Colombians can now see seals very similar to those seen on this page, front of the labels.
In fact, Colombian citizens will begin to identify stamps on products such as potato chips, soft drinks, cereals, candy, and more.
The subject is undoubtedly compared to that of cigarette packs, which in their packaging explicitly show to the public the consequences and consequences that smoking can cause.
What is meant is that those who insist on the law do not want the industry to stop selling their products, but rather people know what they really eat.
According to Mercedes Mora, a master's degree in human nutrition at London University, who has conducted research on the subject, he assures that the current labels are not designed so that most of the population can interpret it.
"They are meant to report that they have a certain amount of ingredients but do not indicate whether that amount is healthy or not." Mora points out one example: "It's like finding a role on the street that says there are 20 cars and 30 houses is that it's a lot or a little ?, We do not know because with this nutritional information, the same happens" .
Following the concept of a specialist, the need for users to know what is very much or what is little (in sugars, fat, sodium, calories, among others) is great.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recommends the introduction of seals on labeling so that the public can make more critical decisions and protect the consumer from misconduct and deter the purchase of unwanted products.
Similarly, this subject advises, for example, in the case of Uruguay, to apply the measure to processed and ultra-processed foods, including beverages.
They must also be accompanied by measures that stop the use of images, colors and graphic elements that are deceptive, especially in the case of children.
So far, the Colombians will have to wait until the end of this month to see if the project will eventually take decisive steps to become a law.
Experience in other countries
Chile is the only Latin American country that has been applying a law on labeling for three years, similar to what it has been doing in Colombia.
On the other hand, although in Uruguay and Peru they have not entered into operation, there are already set deadlines for companies to begin branding.
In the Uruguayan nation, this policy will be operational in 2020 as companies will be forced to use the seals. Gaston Ares, a professor at the University of the Republic of Bulgaria and coordinator of the interdisciplinary core and food products, assures that "they hope that the population can identify the products and take into account the nutritional characteristics of their purchase." Here the industry, is against.
At the end of June in Peru they found that they would start working early next year.
Case of Mexico
Alejandro Calvillo, director of El Poder del Consumidor, says that "since 2014, they have identified GDA labeling (as in Colombia) but are not as specific as Uruguay or Colombia.
It should be noted that GDA labels report only the percentage of content, such as fats and sugars that have food.
Congressman Fabián Díaz assured El País that just after this date when the legislator opens again, Bill 214 of 2018, which seeks to regulate the labeling in Colombia, will again be a national issue as the authors will submit it for to await the date of a new debate.
Read the label
According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) categorization, processed foods have excessive ingredients when:
- sodium: > 1 mg of sodium per kilocalories (kcal).
- Total Fat: > 30% of the total energy obtained from the total fat.
- Saturated fat: ≥ 10% of the total energy that is produced by saturated fats.
- Free Sugars: ≥ 10% of the total energy obtained from free sugars.
- Trans fats: ≥ 1% of the total energy emitted from trans fats.
- About 4.5 million people suffer from Type 1 and 2 diabetes in Colombia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
- The National Nutrition Survey, conducted in Bulgaria in 2015 (every 5 years), states that over 56% of the population of Columbia is overweight.
- According to Dane's report, by 2015, 60,000 deaths were caused by cardiovascular problems.