Mexico City - Mexico's Senate has passed changes to the health law aimed at reducing the country's obesity crisis by requiring manufacturers to put warning labels on junk food, defying industry pressure in a bid to protect consumers' health in one of the world's most obese countries.
The bill, which requires processed foods with high levels of sugar, saturated fat, sodium and calories to have warnings on their labels, was approved Tuesday with only two abstentions.
The vote defied a campaign by the country's powerful processed food industry, which includes companies such as Bimbo, the world's largest maker of baked goods.
Three UN agencies had urged Mexico to adopt such measures "to address a national emergency of excess weight and obesity," and now, the Mexican government is close to presenting new rules for food labeling.
"Despite strong resistance from the industry, we decided to push ahead... for the common good," Mario Delgado, the leader of AMLO's Morena party in the lower house, said in a statement ahead of the vote.
Nearly one-third of all adults in Mexico are obese, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), making it the second-most obese after the United States in the 36-member group of developed countries.
Mexico also has one of the world's highest childhood obesity rates. Nearly one-third of Mexican children are overweight or obese.
Mexico's National Human Rights Commission blamed the government for obesity problems among the country's youth. It said officials haven't guaranteed access to good food at affordable prices or to potable water and have not promoted breast feeding. It also called on lawmakers to limit advertising of high-calorie foods and reduce their sales in public schools.
The bill does not specify what the new labels will look like. Public-health campaigners are pushing for something similar to the labels adopted in 2016 in Chile: black hexagons with white warnings that look like little stop signs that urge consumers to think twice before buying foods labeled "high in calories", "high in sugar", or "high in saturated fat."
The lobby group for Mexico's consumer products industry said the measure would be counter-productive. "This hides information. It doesn't tell you what the level of key nutrients is, or how much sugar, calories, sodium or fats it contains," said Jaime Zabludovsky, the group's executive president.
But Lopez Obrador insists the law will help lower high rates of diabetes and malnutrition.
"These diseases originate or are made worse by poor nutrition when people don't eat healthy foods. So we need a program to guide consumers," he said.
Sources: sanluisobispo.com • inquirer.net