Article: Efforts in adopting the ultra-processed food and soft drinks labeling legislation in a COVID-19 environment: The cases of Colombia and Mexico

Diabetes contributes to COVID-19 deaths in Colombia and Mexico, where the latter having the highest prevalence of diabetes among OECD countries. Some reports consider that advertising influences diabetes by confusing labels on ultra-processed foods and soft drinks that lead to unhealthy food choices. Both countries are in the process of modifying their labeling legislation; however, governments and food industries have pushed to delay its implementation. Using a mixed research design, we interviewed 550 consumers in both countries during June–July 2020; a high number of respondents misunderstand today’s food labeling and are unaware of the new labeling legislation. Respondents strongly agree that the food industry should be in charge of changing the labels; otherwise, they would consider not buying their products. Using cluster analysis, we identified three groups that would help design public policies, nutritional and educational campaigns. Although changes in food labeling alone are not enough to reduce obesity and diabetes rates, food labels constitute public health tools due they assist consumers to make food and nutritional choices (considering that nutrition can help prevent and overcome COVID-19). The costs of maintaining current labels could increase Colombians and Mexicans illnesss and poverty. These deceptive practices of the food industry would harm their brands.