How Chile cut down on sale of sugary drinks

Monday, February 24th, 2020 09:30 |

With Christine Nderitu

Common labels in packaged foods give a list of nutrients and amounts. But how many people actually take time to read through the list of nutrients and identify what’s healthy and what’s not? 

In 2016, Chile implemented a law on food labelling and advertising to prevent further increase in the already high prevalence of obesity in the country. 

The law mandated front of package warning labels, restricted marketing directed to children and banned sale of all foods and beverages high in sugar, sodium or saturated fats.

According to an observational study, An Evaluation Of Chile’s Law Of Food Labelling And Advertising On Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Purchases From 2015 To 2017: A Before-And-After study, the purchase of high-in beverages decreased by 23 per cent after the law was implemented.

This decrease was greater than the decrease observed when single standalone policies such as a sugar-sweetened-beverage tax was implemented in Latin America. 

By requiring labels, in black and white stop signs, to simply flag each high nutrient of concern, Chile was able to bridge the gap in buyers reading the signs. 

The warning signs, written in Spanish, simply say “High in Sugar,” “High in Calories,” “High in Fat” and “High in Salt.” People are then advised to pick foods with fewer signs, with preference to those that have no signs at all.

Although this study is observational, its impact shows potential to change food norms and challenges many countries to adopt the same.

This labelling is simple and easy to understand, thus more likely to influence people’s choices of healthy snacks.

However, future research is required to give an understanding on how these labelling changes are attributable to changes in consumer behaviour, and how regulations influence dietary intake and other health-related outcomes. 

In the meantime, while we hope that Kenya adopts the same, let’s continue reading our food labels and choose foods lowest in sugar, salt, fat and calories.

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