KANSAS CITY — Bakeries and other food processors have been forced to navigate a changing regulatory map throughout many countries in Latin America as they adapt different regulatory guidelines concerning front-of-packaging “warning” labels.
However, some groups and organizations are now challenging potential inconsistencies and disputing the scientific accuracy of certain regulations that could result in potential standardization of such labeling in the future, noted Susana Socolovsky, consultant, regulatory and scientific affairs, Pentachem Consulting.
Speaking at the BakingTech 2021 virtual conference by the American Society of Baking (ASB), Ms. Socolovsky outlined how these warning labels, often in the shape of a stop sign, have evolved over the past decade.
Today, these labels can be found on packaged foods in several Latin American countries ranging from Chile and Brazil to Mexico. Ms. Socolovsky noted these labels are required on foods deemed “processed,” such as French bread, or “ultra-processed” like a donut where the thresholds for certain ingredients surpass regulatory guidelines.
She said they warn consumers that a packaged product is high in sugar, sodium or saturated fat, and in some cases, a country’s regulations may prevent companies from advertising these products to children.
Ms. Socolovsky said food companies face major issues, such as how various countries calculate foods that are regulated and how they qualify for warning labels. In many cases, adding salt to butter or sugar to another product may prompt a warning label. Overall, she said, many regulations look at the nutrient makeup of a specific food and not how it fits into a broader balanced diet.
With various scientific groups and organizations have begun questioning the validity of the labeling regulations, Ms. Socolovsky indicated that organizations like the Codex Alimentarius Commission may explore the possibility of standardizing the different regulations for front-of-package labeling and to ensure it’s consistent with a product’s nutrition panel.
“We all hope that Codex will shed some more light onto this discussion and soon we will have guidelines that all of the countries have to follow,” she said.
When asked whether she expects the United States may follow this labeling trend, Ms. Socolovsky said: “I hope FDA will never adopt such regulations.”