The impact of Chile’s food labeling law

Senator Guido Girardi, author of Chile's food labeling law, with Rodrigo Castaneda of FAO's Partnerships Division and Fernando Ayala of FAO's Parliamentary Alliances team

Senator Guido Girardi shares updates on the effects of the law during a visit to FAO

07/05/2019 - 

Rome – Senator Guido Girardi, author of the Chile’s food labeling law, recently visited FAO for a working meeting with the Parliamentary Alliances team of the Partnerships division, taking the opportunity to present an update on the impact of the law. 

The Chilean food labeling law, which entered into force in 2016, was the first of its kind and an important example of the role that parliamentarians can play in improving food security and nutrition. The law requires foods that exceed specified limits of sodium, sugar, and saturated fats to be clearly labeled as such, and imposes certain restrictions on advertising unhealthy foods to children. Today, large black labels on foods that surpass these limits help to educate consumers about the content and make healthier purchases. 

Prior to the introduction of the law, Chile registered some of the highest rates of overweight and obesity in the region. Of specific concern was the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children: in 2016, nearly 25% of all first-grade primary school students in Chile were considered obese. Senator Girardi, a physician by training, worked tirelessly to combat rising obesity rates and improve child nutrition, and the law was approved after ten years of parliamentary debate. As the number of diseases and deaths from poor diets increase, both in developed and developing countries, public policy has proven to be a critical tool for combating malnutrition and reducing rates of overweight and obesity.

Senator Girardi is optimistic about the law’s effects, explaining that people have already begun to move away from products that are clearly labeled as unhealthy. In addition, while the resistance of large food companies is generally a major obstacle to laws that regulate food production, he mentioned that about 20% of the large sugar and food companies in Chile have begun to adapt to the new law by modifying nutritional content in terms of sugar, salt, and fat, and by eliminating transgenic components.

The law has not only had positive effects for Chile, but for other countries as well: some countries, including Peru, Uruguay and Ecuador, have already begun to introduce similar laws, while other countries are studying the Chilean labeling law as a model for their own legislation.