The health authorities of Costa Rica have ordered to “hide” the warning nutritional labels on foods high in fats, sodium, and sugar through a circular from the Ministry of Health on June 22, which emerged this week.
“The importer or distributor must hide such information from the original label,” the health portfolio stated in the circular, arguing that this measure “should not cause confusion to the consumer in any case.”
The controversial decision of the Costa Rican government contradicts the recommendations of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the United Nations Organization for Agriculture and Food (FAO) regarding nutritional labeling on food.
The warning label with nutritional information on the front of the packages is what “best favors easy and correct identification” of products with an excess of components critical to health and promotes reduction in purchases of these products, according to a 2022 FAO report.
From the PAHO, it was warned that it is “a simple, practical, and effective tool to inform the public” and highlighted that “around 44% of deaths in the Americas are caused by high blood pressure, fasting hyperglycemia, and obesity and overweight.”
However, Costa Rica made the decision to hide them based on “national regulation, like the Central American one in force” and claiming that they do not contemplate “the values that must be met by the declarations “high/excess of” for calories, fat, sugars, sodium among others, that are used in the warning nutritional labeling in some countries.”
It was indicated in the same circular that the original label of the product and the one required by Costa Rica to market it are sufficient and “no warning seal about nutrients should be displayed,” the Ministry of Health noted in its note.
Although in Costa Rica there is no current legislation on the obligation of warning nutritional labeling, as there is in countries in the region such as Chile, Mexico, Colombia or Uruguay, the UN recommended in March 2022 to use this labeling system after the rejection of a bill that proposed it.