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Health on the Table: A Consumer Advocacy Perspective on Reducing Overweight and Obesity in Latin America

16 October 2021

Health on the Table: A Consumer Advocacy Perspective on Reducing Overweight and Obesity in Latin America

Saturday 16 October 2021 marks World Food Day, the annual celebration for the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and to highlight global issues around food security. This is an opportunity for global collective action to promote “worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and the need to ensure healthy diets for all”.

Today, Consumers International launched a healthy eating report addressing the growing levels of overweight and obesity in Latin America from a consumer perspective. With support from the FAO, the report gathers views from our Members in seven countries in Latin America on healthy eating initiatives, in order to identify promising practices and recommend effective policy changes.

In Latin America, over 60% of the population is overweight or obese. This is due to the lack of affordable and convenient healthy options, making health diets a difficult choice for consumers. Consequently, this has led to a significant rise of health-related issues in the region such as diabetes, hypertension, and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as well as amplified the harmful impact of COVID-19.

As a result, the report calls for urgent actions in improving eating habits through a consumer advocacy approach and the need for policy development to tackle these health issues. This is in line with the continuous conversations surrounding food security and nutrition around the world where the global consumer movement came together to develop calls for actions from governments in the recent United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021.

A CRITICAL TIME

Now is a critical time in instituting policy changes to reduce obesity and overweight. Where science is rapidly providing vaccines to fight COVID-19, consumer advocates recognise the ability of businesses and regulators to improve the health of consumers by implementing consumer-centric healthy eating initiatives and policies to encourage and expand such initiatives.

To inform such policymaking efforts, Consumers International developed the Consumer-Centred Nutrition Framework (CCN Framework) to help businesses, social enterprises, policymakers and other stakeholders to enable and encourage healthier food choices by consumers.

The CCN Framework identifies six levers that can influence consumer choice throughout their food consumption journey. It was found that existing business and social enterprise initiatives in the seven selected countries in Latin America focused on levers such as the promotion of local agriculture and information and education whereas other issues like accessibility and affordability of healthy options and ethical marketing and advertising were overlooked. 

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACTION

 

1. Implement Economic Incentives, Subsidies, Loans, Levies, and Taxes to Make Healthy Products More Affordable

Affordability of a healthy food products remains one of the critical issues in consumers’ ability to sustain a healthy diet. The CCN Framework suggests that “healthy foods need to be as or more affordable than unhealthy ones”. This could involve policy development in raising sugar-sweetened beverage and other unhealthy food taxes to create a better price balance in order to make healthy foods relatively more affordable and perhaps more attractive to consumers overall.

2. Protect Vulnerable Consumers from Aggressive, Misleading, and Abusive Marketing and Advertising

The powerful force of marketing and advertising can easily influence eating habits of vulnerable consumers like children. The research found that there is a lack of initiatives in place to reduce the marketing of unhealthy foods. Therefore, the CCN Framework calls for governments, businesses and consumer organisations to take action in regulating the dissemination of food products with a focus on restricting the marketing of ultra-processed foods, particularly to children under 18, and increasing promotion of healthy products through evidence-based campaigns.

3. Facilitate Value Chain Improvements and Purchase Locally for Social Welfare Programs

Increased consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds, and nuts improves consumers’ diets. To achieve this, price and access are important, both of which can be addressed through value chain improvements. Shortening the supply chain between locally produced products and consumers may help lower costs and make healthy, unprocessed, and minimally processed foods more accessible and attractive. Food sovereignty and security can also be enhanced by promoting local agriculture, as can sustainable production practices.

READ REPORT (ENG) 

READ REPORT (SPA)

WHAT NEXT?

Right now, it is a critical time for diverse stakeholders to act together to reduce overweight and obesity to protect the health of consumers. This healthy eating report is part of a broader push, as Consumers International and its partners continue to aim to improve consumer eating habits.

Let us know how you are marking World Food Day 2021 by using the hashtag #WorldFoodDay and tag us on LinkedInTwitterFacebookInstagram.

Contact us if you would like to collaborate on our work on the Future of Food.