Opinion – CARICOM’s front-of-package labelling conundrum

It has been four years since the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) began discussions on the adoption of a front-of-package labelling system to protect population health in the region. As a public- and global-health lawyer, I can confidently characterise this process as one that has only legitimised and prioritised the interests of private actors to the detriment of society.

For starters, the private sector has recently secured a privileged seat and further strengthened its power with the designation of the Caribbean Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) as an Associate Institution of CARICOM. This has, of course, facilitated corporate capture by giving them high-level policymaker access to lobby and delay the process of the adoption of a front-of-package nutrition labelling system. This additional avenue of participation, which is not available to other interested parties, such as regional civil society organisations, has fostered an unequal power imbalance that challenges the foundations of democracy and is at odds with public health policymaking best practices.

Article/Bazil – Learning about food labels about food and nutrients: the use of labeling in research education

The function of labels is to guide consumers to understand food ingredients and promote healthy food choices. However, this does not mean that consumers use labels as a tool to choose which foods should be part of their diet. This investigative activity will address cellular biochemistry content – water and minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, vitamins, and nucleic acids. The proposal will have a duration of 4 classes, and students will be divided into food groups, where after the exposure of images of unprocessed, processed and ultra-processed foods made by the teacher, the groups will create a label of the type of food designated for each group. Next, the teacher will challenge the students with a guiding question, and from this question they will develop hypotheses. The students will use real labels of foods that make up their diet to answer a questionnaire and compare the information on the real labels with the label they produced. A text will be produced reporting if after the research and activities done by the students, their hypotheses were right or not. Finally, there will be a round of conversation in which students can orally explain the difference between the label created by them and the real label. It is hoped that this proposal, based on the reading and analysis of food/beverage labels present in their diet, will alert and make students aware of the importance of having good eating habits, giving priority to unprocessed or minimally processed foods that contain nutrients necessary for the proper functioning of their bodies.

Article – Carbohydrate content and ingredient profile of supposedly “low-carb” food products in Brazil

Purpose

This study aims to evaluate the carbohydrate content, ingredient profile and degree of processing of supposedly “low-carb” foods in the Brazilian market.

Design/methodology/approach

Information was collected from physical supermarkets in Divinópolis, Minas Gerais and on websites throughout Brazil between July and September/2020. The carbohydrate content was assessed in g/100 g, and ingredient lists were investigated for the presence of carbohydrate-rich ingredients. The degree of processing of the products was evaluated by NOVA classification to determine whether the term “low carb” had been translated into Portuguese.

Findings

This study evaluated a total number of 164 products, the most frequent were bakery products (34.7%), granola and cereal bars (19.5%) and candies and desserts (14.0%). This claim was also found in low-carb foods such as cheese and chicken. Most food products evaluated (56.0%) were classified as ultra-processed, with the group having the highest carbohydrate content (20.0; 3.0–47.5g/100g), compared to products classified as processed foods (p < 0.01). The ingredient lists showed items rich in carbohydrates, such as cassava and corn derivatives. In 162 products, a low-carb claim was displayed without translation into Portuguese. These data demonstrate that most of these products are ultra-processed and have a high glycidic content.

Peru – Guidelines approved for implementation of octagons in the labeling of processed foods

The National Institute of Quality (INACAL in Spanish), a body attached to the Ministry of Production, approved the Peruvian Guide “GP 110:2022. PACKAGED FOODS. Guide for the implementation of octagons in the labeling of processed foods”, which establishes the minimum requirements and characteristics that the labeling of all packaged food intended for human consumption must comply with.

“This guide provides guidance to suppliers of processed foods and non-alcoholic beverages for the standardization in the placement of advertising warnings (octagons) on the labels and advertising of their products, when these exceed the current technical parameters of sugar, sodium and saturated fat content, established in the Advertising Warnings Manual. In the case of trans fats, they are governed by the regulations stipulated by the competent authority,” said Clara Gálvez, executive president of INACAL.

Codex – Codex Alimentarius Commission: 21-25 November 2022

The United Nations food standards body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, met both physically and virtually from November 21-25, 2022, to adopt food quality and safety standards. The Commission’s report will be adopted virtually from December 12-13, 2022.

  • Revision to the Standard for Named Vegetable Oils – Sunflower Seed Oil (CXS 210-1999).  ADOPTED- 21.11.2022
  • Guidelines for Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF). ADOPTED- 21.11.2022
  • Guidelines for the Management of Biological Foodborne Outbreaks. ADOPTED- 21.11.2022
  • Revision to the General Principles of Food Hygiene (CXC 1-1969). ADOPTED- 21.11.2022
  • Maximum Levels for Aflatoxins in Certain Cereals and Cereal-Based Products including Foods for Infants and Young Children. ADOPTED- 22.11.2022
  • Guidelines for Compounds of Low Public Health Concern that May Be Exempted from the Establishment of Codex MRLs. ADOPTED- 23.11.2022
  • Standard for Chilli Peppers and Paprika. ADOPTED- 23.11.2022
  • Guidelines for developing harmonized food safety legislation for the Africa region. ADOPTED- 23.11.2022

©FAO/Giulio Napolitano