Ten years ago I was not so aware of food. Although I had always taken care of myself and ate very healthy, when I had my children it became a concern, as well as a responsibility. Providing them with quality food was a separate job: not only because of the time it takes us to look for fresh, varied vegetables, rich in protein and that they eat as much as possible well for their proper development, but also the practically epic mission of avoid processed food. When I say “avoid”, I am aware that it is partial, since on birthdays it was obvious that they were going to have it at their fingertips, so I made it my goal that these products were not a habit or a fundamental part of their diet .
This week the Front Labeling Law was going to be discussed, which tries to force companies, food companies, to provide more detailed information on the food they sell. After much debate, many operations, many forms of delay to prevent this from coming down to the venue, an opinion had been obtained for its treatment. What happened is the chronicle of an announced end: there was no quorum because the majority of the opposition decided not to grant it. They say that they did so because they proposed to address more urgent issues, tied to this and that if the ruling party wanted to discuss the Front Labeling Law, it should commit to also dealing with the single ballot vote and other initiatives that the opposition considered especially urgent. In any case, the fact that the discussion has not taken place does not mean that the law is going to fall, since luckily it does not lose parliamentary status. Regardless of what is said, whether it is part of democratic political management to pressure to get certain issues to be debated, the unfortunate thing is that there was evidence of a very influential lobby that activated the powers of the State and twisted its will to favor its own interests or, rather, to protect them in this case, so that there is no change in the regulations.
The law proposes that companies must place a black octagon on the front of the label of foods high in fat, sugar or sodium: that is, it seeks to warn that the regular consumption of these products is harmful to health. The criteria for this is dictated or established by the Pan American Health Organization, that is, it is not, at this point, something that is under discussion. In addition, the project seeks to force companies to restrict those advertisements that may influence the consumption of these foods by children. For example, to stop using cartoons on packaging to attract the attention of children.
I ask myself: how much money does it cost to put that octagon on the front of the products? Nothing compared to what they earn. The real problems for the food industry are clearly others. The first is that if this applies, we are all going to realize that a lot of what they sell us is garbage. As a consequence, companies will be forced to change certain inputs and modify production processes. Would it be enough with this? What would happen, for example, with sugary drinks? How would you go about eliminating the tremendous amount of sugar they contain?
There are all kinds of reports that confirm that ultra-processed products are those that are mostly consumed by the poorest sectors. They are known to have caused a true obesity pandemic: just look at the physical makeup of many children in poor neighborhoods. It is also proven that there is a correlation between its consumption and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and certain types of cancer. Thus, the consequences of this battle are much more prevalent among poor children than among those with high or medium purchasing power, who are fortunate to have access to other foods of higher quality and less harmful.
Why are companies so resistant? Is what they offer so unhealthy that they can’t make it explicit on a label, or rather, they can’t even modify their formula so that it doesn’t fall into that category? Who are really in favor of looking after our interests and our health? Do those who are not sympathetic to the benefits of this law live on another planet? What do those who oppose that we, as citizens, have the right to know what we are eating eat? The answers that I imagine to these questions are chilling because not only do they start from the suspicion that the entire food production model is poorly planned, but also, the saddest thing, is that in the face of this it is clear that those who have power do not care. We should recognize the importance of warning and pointing out who is on one side and who is on the other. If the health of our children is not important or urgent for our representatives: what is?
Boys, it is time to put the cracks aside and for once in your life to think about the health of our people.