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News Article

PROFECO Bans Some Instant Soups for Mislabeling

By Miriam Bello | Tue, 10/05/2021 - 16:19

Mexico’s Federal Consumer Prosecutor's Office (PROFECO) banned some instant soup brands for mislabeling and misleading advertisement. These actions follow Mexico’s recently introduced labeling regulations that aim to help consumers make healthy food and beverages choices.

PROFECO’s decision follows a quality study performed by the National Consumer Protection Laboratory on 33 instant soups of different brands and is a response to 68 complaints received in the 38 Consumer Defense Offices (ODECO). PROFECO found that these products were non-compliant with the requirements of the labeling standard as they do not report calories as required by the norm, do not include instructions in Spanish and have misleading labels because they imply the content of chicken meat but list on their ingredients "artificial chicken flavor powder" and "artificial chicken flavor." Others have images implying the presence of carrots but the product does not contain them. Additionally, they do not include the nutritional information of the ready-to-eat product.

The General Health Law states that food labels must provide complete information of critical nutrients and clearly display the standard nutritional table, a list of ingredients and the amount of added sugars. Nutritional content must be reported in portions of 100 g or 100 ml to facilitate comparison between products. Labeling regulations also state that if a product contains warning stamps, it cannot advertise the endorsement of medical associations. One of the most controverted additions to the General Health Law was the stipulation that products containing one or more warning stamps may not use characters, cartoons or other types of advertisement in their packaging. These labelling practices help to inform the population, according to Carlos López Patán, Director General of Medix.

Aside from the nutritional inconsistencies, laboratory results showed that instant soups on Styrofoam containers released harmful compounds into the food if heated in a microwave, so consumers are urged to follow the preparation instructions.

These types of ultra-processed foods have been called out for their threat to health but the food and beverage industry has strongly disputed these claims. According to the Global Food Research Program, companies claims that the labeling reforms in Mexico lead to loss of employment and higher costs on rebranding the products. Instant soups are popular in Mexico thanks to their high availability and low cost, of US$0.49 on average.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst