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February 20, 2019

Statement from Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President at Vital Strategies, on New Findings on Chile’s Food Labelling and Advertising Laws

(New York, USA)— Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President at Vital Strategies, has issued the following statement in response to the findings detailed in “Responses to the Chilean law of food labeling and advertising: exploring knowledge, perceptions and behaviors of mothers of young children,’ the first research paper on Chile’s laws on food labelling and advertising.

According to the study, mothers understand that Chile’s food regulations are designed to combat childhood obesity and agree they are changing perceptions, attitudes and behaviors. Many are changing their purchasing decisions to buy healthier products for their children, who have become promoters of change in their families. Ms Mullin said:

“A quiet revolution in attitudes and behaviors towards healthy eating is underway in Chile, as suggested by these overwhelmingly positive findings on the country’s strong, world-leading food and beverage regulations, that notably address food labelling and advertising and school policy. The Chilean/US research team’s findings are clear; Simple, easy to understand warning labels on food and beverage packaging are helping to denormalize unhealthy products. This is resulting in a new pester power, with children now persuading their parents to buy healthier foods and beverages, a message that’s reinforced by removing unhealthy products from daycare facilities and schools and implementing programs to educate children about healthy diets. The effects are particularly notable among children from less affluent households, who are most at risk of unhealthy diet, obesity and related disease.

“Vital Strategies applauds Chile for implementing these impactful obesity prevention policies and congratulates the research team from Diego Portales University, University of Chile and UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health for this globally-important addition to the evidence base. Their diligent work sets out the benefits of simultaneously addressing different aspects of this complex issue. We urge policymakers in other countries to follow Chile’s example of encouraging children to be agents of change, as part of a comprehensive policy approach to reducing obesity.”

Additional background:

High body mass index and diet-related risk factors are the leading causes of premature death and disability in Chile, where it’s estimated that a quarter of school children and a third of the adult population (aged over 15 years) are obese. In June 2016 Chile’s government implemented a set of regulations to tackle the obesity epidemic, designed and implemented so children are the primary beneficiaries. These regulations include the mandatory use of black triangle warning labels on the front of packaged foods and beverages high in calories, sugars, saturated fats and sodium. Unhealthy products cannot be sold or offered in daycare facilities or schools and there is a ban on marketing or promoting these products to children aged under 14 years. In addition, the government implemented public and school campaigns to promote healthier diets. The study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity uses qualitative research conducted among a representative sample of mothers in Santiago to assess knowledge, attitudes and experiences of the impact of the regulations. The study shows that mothers understand that products with the most labels are less healthful choices and they now perceive the school environment as more healthful than before these regulations were introduced.

Vital Strategies’ global work in obesity prevention

Vital Strategies provides technical assistance to cities and countries around the world to change public attitudes and behaviors and build support for obesity prevention policies. To date, Vital Strategies has supported obesity prevention efforts in Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico, and South Africa. A team of global experts in strategic communication, policy advocacy, and research and evaluation supports local partners advocating for policy change, building local capacity, optimizing effectiveness and growing the evidence base for obesity prevention initiatives. Strategic mass media campaigns implemented to date have been designed to warn consumers about the health harms of sugary drinks and junk foods among children and adults and to build support for taxes on sugary beverages, bans on junk food marketing that targets children, and clear nutritional labelling. 

For more information on Vital Strategies’ work in obesity prevention, please visit: http://www.vitalstrategies.org/programs/obesity-prevention/

Media Contact:

Christina Honeysett, Vital Strategies: choneysett@vitalstrategies.org; +1.914.424.3356

Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies: tjohnston@vitalstrategies.org; +44.(0)7889.081.170

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our programs reach into 73 countries and help prevent death and illness from noncommunicable diseases, reduce harm caused by environmental factors, and support cities as engines for public health. We consult with governments on issues including restricting junk food marketing to kids, promoting smoke-free laws, improving indoor and outdoor air quality, and strengthening road safety. These are protections that can add up to millions of lives saved. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change.

For more information about Vital Strategies’ work, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

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