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Children see, children do: Will Mexican kids slim down by watching less candy ads?

By Vladimir Pekic , 28-Jul-2014
Last updated on 28-Jul-2014 at 14:32 GMT

Mexico’s Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk (COFEPRIS) takes aim at ads not in line with its new guidelines on advertising to children.
Mexico’s Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk (COFEPRIS) takes aim at ads not in line with its new guidelines on advertising to children.

Just a week after Mexico banned commercials for soda, snacks and confectionery products during cinema showings of children’s movies and during children’s TV programming, Mexican authorities say ads for Nestlé, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Hershey´s and Holanda products are already out of line with the new rules.

Around 97% of the 200 monitored commercials since the new ban came into force in mid-July complied with the new norms, according to Mexico’s Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk (COFEPRIS). However, the commission added that the remaining 3% were flouting the country’s new measures designed to tackle the country's problem of overweight, obesities and diabetes.

One of the ads shown at the wrong time of day included a commercial for “chocolate-flavored Nesquik Duo cereals, which is a product similar to chocolate in its composition, and a sanction process has been launched against the brand,” said COFEPRIS.

COFEPRIS also pointed its finger at Hershey’s chocolate flavored milk and Holanda chocolate-topped vanilla ice cream products, singling them out as possible offenders. The commission added that it had requested a suspension of the corresponding ad campaigns and initiated the process of applying sanctions. 

Restricted airing time 

In an effort to fight obesity, Mexico’s health secretariat officially unveiled the country’s ban on commercials for sodas, snacks, confectionery products and chocolates on July 15. The new TV restrictions were applicable to showings on free-to-air and cable TV between the times of 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and between 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday to Sunday. The movie theater restrictions applied to ads aired during showings of movies rated A (general audience) and AA (children's films).

Overall, an estimated 40% of commercials for snacks, soda drinks, confectionery products and chocolates will disappear from TV during the children’s TV schedule, in favor of products that meet nutritional standards, the health ministry revealed. Authorities in Mexico estimated that the new regulations would halt the airing of around 10,233 commercials per year. 

Sugar-free gum and mints spared

The ban on advertisements that came into effect on July 15 published under the name 'Guidelines for disclosing nutritional and advertising criteria to be observed by advertisers of food and non-alcoholic beverages during the advertising of their products on free-to-air and restricted access television, as well as in movie theaters', was published in Mexico’s official state gazette in April.

The guidelines did not limit advertisements of food for toddlers, sugar-free chewing gum and sugar-free breath mints, and did not exempt functional confectionery products.

New labels in 2015

COFEPRIS commissioner Mikel Andoni Arriola Peñalosa said that food and beverage companies would have to label calories of all products clearly as of 2015. Specifically this meant that food and beverage products would have to display sugar, fat and saturated fat content in a clear and upfront manner. 

Peñalosa added that the Mexican sanitary authorities did not recommend a specific daily sugar intake. The new labeling, he said, would simply show consumers calorie content allowing them then to make their decision.

The Hershey Company did not respond to an emailed request for comments on the restrictions.  

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