Tony the Tiger and other mascots used to market high-sugar food to children may soon be banned from breakfast cereal boxes and other packaging of food products bearing a warning label.
Congress passed a law in October that requires foods high in sugar, salt, saturated fats and other ingredients to be labeled as such.
Currently up for debate is another initiative that would ban the use of characters, drawings, celebrities, gifts, sales, games, toys and other marketing schemes directed at children on the packaging of products containing the warning labels.
“This is based on the Pan American Health Organization’s statement that this type of publicity takes advantage of the credulity and inexperience of girls and boys,” said Katia Yetzani García, food health coordinator for the nonprofit El Poder del Consumidor (The Power of the Consumer).
“But it’s important to make clear that this will only occur on packaging that has at least one warning seal, so yes, the [Frosted Flakes] cereal box will not have the tiger,” she said.
Mexico has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world. It is a public health problem estimated to represent 3.2% of the country’s gross domestic product.
Debate over the modification to the General Health Law is expected to conclude in January and, barring unforeseen delays, the law will take effect in February.
García explained that the objective of modifying junk food packaging imagery is to promote the rights of children and deter minors from seeking out these types of products because of their attractive elements.
She said that packaging will bear the health warnings if the levels of added sugar, salt or saturated fats in a product surpass 10% of the recommended daily intake.
“Following the recommendations of the World Health Organization, for an adult the maximum tolerable limit of consumption of added sugar is 10% of the total energy. In a 2,000-calorie diet, the limit would be 10 coffee spoons of sugar,” she said.
Beatriz Bautista of SGS México, a consultancy, said that although warning labels will influence people’s buying decisions, they could end up being insufficient as there is still a need to educate children and the general public on healthy nutrition.
“We lack a lot of information in order to be able to decide which are the best foods for consumption,” she said.
Tony the Tiger has been the cartoon mascot for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes since 1952.