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Due to growing obesity concerns, Mexico no longer permits food packaging with characters aimed at children

Mexico City, Mexico — As of April 1, new laws regarding the labeling of packaged foods aimed at children takes effect. The law, which is the second stage of food labeling changes across the country, no longer allows food packaging that uses characters to advertise to children.

The new law is applied under Official Mexican NOM – 051 -SCFI / SSA1-2010, the general labeling specifications for prepackaged food and non-alcoholic beverages and health information. The move is the second part of the labeling changes in Mexico, after last year when all foods packages began being stamped with health warnings such as excessive calories, excessive sodium, excessive sugars, excessive saturated fats, etc.

Health authorities in Mexico made the move after studies revealed that for every one healthy food ad on television, the country has five promoting foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

As of April 1, advertisers are no longer allowed to use children’s characters, animations, cartoons, celebrities, athletes or pets and / or interactive elements such as games (including digital downloads) that are directed at children that “incite, promote or encourage the consumption, purchase or choice” of the products.

Fiorella Espinosa, Nutrición Pública and Oficial de Nutrición en UNICEF Mexico explained that “the implementation of international recommendations for regulation in Latin American countries has been slow, and although Mexico made progress in regulating advertising at certain television times and in the cinema, there is still much to regulate to really protect this population group,” she said.

In a press conference, Ana Munguía, researcher at the National Institute of Public Health explained the importance of the scientific basis under which the restriction of the use of animated characters and cartoons in packaging is being used.

“It has been shown that advertising aimed at children is a determining element of obesogenic environments by inducing the consumption of unhealthy products with the use of characters,” she said.

According to OECD, as of 2020, about 73 percent of the Mexican population was considered overweight (compared to one-fifth of the population in 1996) with the growth in child obesity doubling from 7.5 percent in 1996 to 15 percent in 2016.