Swiss officials backed Nestlé over Mexico’s food warning labels

A woman buys food at a small shop in Nueva Jerusalen, Mexico. Keystone / Alexandre Meneghini

The food giant had urged Swiss officials to lobby against junk food warning labels mooted by the Mexican government in 2019.

This content was published on July 2, 2022 - 11:55

Emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Swiss public broadcaster RTS indicate that Nestlé had contacted the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) in November 2019. The Swiss multinational had listed the problematic aspects of the Mexican food labelling strategy passed a month earlier to introduce black “stop” labels for unhealthy packaged food products. 

“Nestlé’s concerns were raised by SECO directly with the Mexican government and repeatedly at the World Trade Organisation (WTO),” said Swiss NGO Public EyeExternal link on Saturday. 

In addition, SECO was accused of promoting Nestlé’s own “Nutri scoreExternal link” food labelling system that was less harsh on processed food products. According to Public Eye, Swiss officials also intervened when similar food labelling initiatives were introduced in Ecuador, Chile and Peru.

“We will never allow another country or a foreign corporation to dictate our health policy," said Hugo López-Gatell, Secretary of State of the Mexican Ministry of Health. The country implemented the new packaging rules in 2020.

In response, Nestlé told Swiss broadcaster SRFExternal link that it supports clear and visible nutritional information on packaging worldwide, such as Nutri-Score in Switzerland. According to the Swiss firm, the Mexican labelling system does not help consumers make healthier choices. The company added that it complies with the applicable labelling regulations in Mexico.

Nestlé achieved double digit growth in sales in Mexico last year thanks to its confectionery, coffee and pet food brands.

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