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Argentina President Signs One of World’s Strongest Health Food Policy Laws

About 80% of deaths in Argentina are caused by non-communicable diseases, most related to overweight and obesity. A new law adopted by the country in November addresses this burden with comprehensive, evidence-based food policies, including front of package warning labels (FOPL), advertising marketing restrictions and regulation of school environments and food procurement.

Argentina’s accomplishment comes at a time when advocates are pushing for healthy food policies across Latin America in response to high rates of diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity and heart disease and an increase in availability of ultra-processed food and drinks.

For the past five years, civil society organizations in Argentina fought for a package of policies that include FOPL, marketing restrictions and the removal of unhealthy food and drinks from schools. The Health Food Promotion Law was approved by the Chamber of Deputies following a 12-hour debate in October. The bill passed with strong support with 220 in favor and only 22 against. Legislators publicly acknowledged civil society’s active role in the law’s passage.

The new law was published on November 12 and enacted by decree 782/2021. It is one of the strongest and most comprehensive regulations globally. The law requires ultra-processed products with excess level of sodium, sugar, fats and calories to include black octagons on the front of the package. It also includes a mandatory declaration of sugar on the food label, the regulation of health claims (no claims are allowed on products that have warning labels), and the regulation of food marketing and school environments. The marketing regulations prohibit the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of products with at least one octagon warning label, and that are targeted to children under 18. The bill also prohibits the sale and advertisement of these products in schools. Moreover, it states that the National government will prioritize products without warning labels when comparing similar procurement offers. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) nutrient profile model establishes the thresholds for calories and nutrients of concern like sugar, salt and fat.

Over the last year, the Interamerican Heart Foundation Argentina (FIC Argentina), the Foundation for the Development of Sustainable Policies (FUNDEPS), the Argentina Society of Nutrition and Real Foods (SANAR), Consumidores Argentinos and the Argentina Federation of Nutritionists (FAGRAN), among other civil society organizations, ramped up their advocacy efforts to pressure the Chamber of Deputies to approve the bill. They faced aggressive industry opposition leading up to the vote in Congress and it came at a time when Argentina was focused on upcoming legislative elections. Ahead of the first debate, the opposing party in Congress boycotted the vote, and partners exposed that industry’s lobbying was blocking the bill’s approval, against public health interest in the media.

Partners in Argentina tirelessly advocated for the bill and over the last few months it became a household topic. Together, they secured more than 1,000 media articles, shared more than 450 posts on social media, and produced digital and print ads. They also hosted offline events, including a rally outside of Congress the day of the vote. They held 130 meetings with policymakers and mobilized other civil society organizations, experts and organizations like Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), PAHO and UNICEF.

FIC Argentina, Fundeps, SANAR, Consumidores Argentinos, and FAGRAN used the latest scientific evidence and the best practices from similar policies that have been passed in the rest of the world to support this bill. Given the growing momentum across the globe to adopt FOPL laws, other countries will now look to Argentina as the example for strong and comprehensive healthy food policies. The Health Food Promotion Law will make play a big role in improving public health not only in Argentina, but across the region and the world.