In the last years, Mexico has been facing a rise in health issues connected to poor diet and drinking habits. According to the National Health and Nutrition Survey 2006, hypertension increased of 25% in the previous six years, while data from the OECD shows that in 2015 a whopping 30% of the adult population was obese. According to a research by the WHO, diabetes was the leading cause of death in Mexico in 2016: the population that died to diabetes has tripled since 1990, and by 2050, it is predicted that half of Mexicans will suffer from the disease. Finally, the WHO also shows that alcohol consumption appears to have been on the rise in the last 40 years – leading to an increase in alcoholism and related diseases.
The Ministry of Health has been trying to reduce the impact of nutrition-related chronic diseases by enacting a complex legal framework to ensure that consumers receive transparent information in connection with the sale of food and beverages.
The regulatory efforts have been especially focused on regulating the information contained in advertising and products labels.
The Standard Rule for Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages
In 2014, the Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks (COFEPRIS) amended the Mexican Official Standard Rule NOM-051-SCF/SSA1-2010 for Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages (NOM-051). NOM 051 dictated the labeling requirements for food, non-alcoholic beverages and other pre-packed products that are imported, manufactured and sold in Mexico. In an effort to improve the quality of the information displayed to consumers, the amendments established stricter requirements for the producers, detailing how additional information, like nutrition facts, should be displayed on labels.
However, the new rules proved to be extremely complex and difficult to implement for companies, due to an unclear and ambiguous wording of the Standards. COFEPRIS and the Federal Bureau for Consumer Protection (PROFECO), in charge of verifying compliance with the new regulation, soon realized that for many companies, a total conformity with the standards was extremely difficult to achieve. In 2016, COFEPRIS assessed that more than 75% of the companies had failed to fully comply with the NOM-051.
The New Copy Advice System
With regard to alcoholic beverages labelling and advertising, in 2011 COFEPRIS had already implemented successfully the so-called Copy Advice System.
In May 2016 the system has been extended to food and soft drinks. Under the Copy Advice System, COFEPRIS will provide assistance to companies, helping them understand and implement the legal requirements of the NOM-51. Moreover, with regard to advertising, COFEPRIS will provide a pre-analysis on the advertisements drafts – before companies apply for the required formal authorization.
Although the advice provided by COFEPRIS is nonbinding, the experience with the Copy Advice System for alcoholic beverages has proved to be particularly successful to improve compliance and ultimately avoid fines. In the last 6 years, COFEPRIS and the companies involved have worked together to develop uniform, practical guidelines on the implementation of alcoholic drinks labelling and advertising regulations. This is definitely to be taken as a promising indicator for the success of the Copy Advice System on food and non-alcoholic beverages requirements, reducing the sanctions, the costs for the companies and speeding up the procedures. In particular, COFEPRIS estimates that the Copy Advice system will reduce the response time for obtaining an advertising authorization from 40 to 5 working days.
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