Monitoring and evaluation of front-of-package nutrition labelling in Mexico
Mexico's growing rate of obesity has seen the government explore how front-of-package labels might encourage better food choices by its citizens. Mexico's disease profile has been transformed from one of hunger and infectious and parasitic diseases to one dominated by obesity, diabetes, and other nutrition-related non-communicable diseases. The country's rapid shifts in dietary and physical activity patterns, along with higher rates of obesity, are among the highest ever recorded. The government's response to this problem includes plans for a front-of-package (FOP) labelling system that will promote better food choices and improve nutrition literacy among citizens. At present, the country has no mandatory nutritional labelling or regulations on what the food industry can put on food labels. Many high-income countries have food-labelling systems, with varied levels of success. Major food companies often object to labelling systems that are simple, promote healthy foods, are science-based, and that countries set up without direct input from the industry. And there are concerns that the Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) system, common to developed countries is complex and may in fact mislead consumers. This research project aims to describe and better understand the political, social, legal, and financial factors that support or constrain Mexico's proposed FOP nutrition labels plans. It involves an assessment of changes in consumers' behaviour, and of how they might understand, accept, and use FOP labelling before and after it comes into force. Given the challenges that may be part of any plan to adopt and implement FOP labels, the project will also assess the impacts that change might create among stakeholder groups, such as politicians, consumers, advocates, and industry leaders. It will also measure the change in availability of food products with new nutrition labelling. This research on a food labelling system in Mexico may be one of the first examples of such a project in a LMIC and could eventually apply to other LMICs. Researchers intend to publish their results and present reports on progress, barriers, and solutions at local and regional meetings in the second year of implementation. This will include a report on the political context, political process, and stakeholder reactions once the new labelling system is in force.