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How Nestlé tried to lobby Mexico’s overweight policy

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Did the food giant Nestlé try to block labeling against junk food in Mexico? The Swiss non-governmental organization Public Eye confirms this. In a report published on Friday 1er July, she lifts the veil, copies of email exchanges in support, on the lobbying carried out, at the end of 2019, by the Swiss flagship in a country where seven out of ten Mexicans are overweight or obese. The NGO assures that the Swiss government has been “instrumentalized” by Nestlé to put pressure on the Mexican authorities. The operation failed. The standard is applied.

The alert is all over Mexican food packaging. For almost two years, large octagonal black labels have been informing the consumer about ingredients harmful to health: “excess saturated fat”, “in sugar”, “in calories”… The warning matches the urgency: the country has become the second most overweight and obese nation among members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, after the UNITED STATES. Mexico wins the prize for overweight among children: 38% of Mexicans aged 5 to 11 are overweight, according to the Mexican Institute of Statistics. The new regulations also prohibit junk food advertising aimed at minors.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers The battle for labeling continues in the food industry

A major challenge for Nestlé. “The company achieved a turnover, in 2019 in Mexico, of nearly 3 billion eurosexplains Laurent Gaberell, author of the Public Eye survey. More than a billion sales of Nestlé products were threatened by this new labeling. » The draft standard was published in October 2019 and adopted in March 2020. “It was during this period that Nestlé tried to modify the content of the new regulations with the support of the Swiss authorities. “, underlines Mr. Gaberell.

Mexicans hold on

On November 15, 2019, a Nestlé employee sent an email to a interlocutor from the Swiss Ministry of Economics (SECO), requesting “help” and “recommendations”. The names are redacted in emails obtained by Public Eye, after a request made in the name of a Swiss law on transparency and access to information. That day, the email was accompanied by an argument from Nestlé supposed to guide SECO in its diplomatic exchanges with the Mexican authorities. The memorandum deplores a standard too “restrictive”causing “unnecessary fears” among consumers.

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