Rules and Regulations of Keto Claims on Products in Argentina
Like many other places worldwide, the Keto diet is exploding in popularity throughout Latin America. In Argentina, low-carb diets, in general, continue to allure consumers looking for a proven way to lose weight. Though there are no reliable statistics on the number of people in Argentina currently following the Keto Diet, several private companies import Keto-certified products into Argentina and provide people with detailed Keto meal plans. The growth of this niche diet market shows the emergent interest in low-carb lifestyles. This has also led many companies to consider any relevant regulations of Keto claims on products in Argentina.
Below, we take an in-depth look at some of the current health indicators in Argentina that may be contributing to the mounting interest in low-carb diets. We then turn our attention to a recently passed frontal labeling law in Argentina and explore how this new legislation may affect health food brands and companies interested in importing and marketing their products to the Argentinian market. Lastly, we succinctly outline any relevant regulations of Keto claims on products in Argentina.
Obesity and other Health Issues Related to Poor Nutrition in Argentina
The unfortunate globalization of the ultra-processed industrial food diet has led to similar outcomes in countries worldwide. As communities and nations abandon traditional diets centered on locally produced natural foods, highly processed foods saturated with nutritionally empty carbohydrates, tend to take over. The result is ballooning obesity rates and related chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic heart disease. Health figures and indicators in Argentina regrettably exhibit similar trends.
According to the Global Nutrition Report, “the country (Argentina) has shown no progress towards achieving the target for obesity, with an estimated 31.7 percent of adult (aged 18 years and over) women and 30.2 percent of adult men living with obesity. Argentina’s obesity prevalence is higher than the regional average of 30.7 percent for women and 22.8 percent for men.” Furthermore, the report finds that Argentina, as a country, is off-course for several key health indicators, including raised blood pressure for men and women, obesity levels for men and women, and diabetes for men and women.
In fact, in 2019, the Ministry of Health performed its fourth National Survey of Risk Factors with alarming results:
- 66 percent of the population was overweight,
- 32 percent had obesity,
- 40 percent had high blood pressure,
- 30 percent had high cholesterol,
- 41 percent of minors ages 5 to 17 were overweight,
- 13.6 percent of children under five years of age were also overweight.
A 2014 and 2015 study published in Frontiers in Nutrition looked at different dietary patterns across Argentina. The study found that most people followed westernized diets generally characterized by high consumption of animal fats, sugar-sweetened beverages, meats or processed meats, pizza and empanadas, sweets, pastries, and low consumption of fruits and vegetables. In comparison, more traditional dietary paradigms centered on consuming oils, starchy vegetables, and red meat were losing ground.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns led to an even further increase in obesity nationwide. One recent poll found that Argentina was ranked fifth among countries where people gained the most weight in Latin America during the pandemic. The study analyzed various factors related to the effects that diet and physical exercise had on people’s health during the coronavirus pandemic and showed that 40 percent of the Argentinian people surveyed admitted that they had gained weight during the pandemic. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that almost half of the Argentinian adults (49 percent) were attempting to lose weight by the end of 2020.
Recently Passed Frontal Labeling Law in Argentina
These alarming negative health indicators have led to an interest in making changes on a political level. According to one Congresswomen in Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies, “in Argentina 150 grams of sugars are consumed per day, triple that recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). We are the first in the region and the fourth in the world (in terms of per capita sugar consumption).”
Recently, the government of Argentina passed a progressive frontal labeling law to help educate consumers about the food items they purchase and consume. The labeling law, similar to the ones passed in Chile, Mexico, and other countries worldwide, establishes that food companies or brands must add certain symbols to their front labeling. Specifically, food and beverage packages must include an octagon-shaped black stamp advising if the products have: excess sugar, sodium, saturated fat, total fat, and calories. The black, octagonal labels will read:
- “excessive sugar,”
- “excessive sodium,”
- “excessive saturated fat,”
- “excessive total fat” and
- “excessive calories.”
The new law also states that food brands must mention when caffeine or sweeteners are contained in specific food products, two components the government has determined are not recommended for child consumption.
The new frontal food labeling law also establishes that if the products contain sweeteners or caffeine, companies must notify that its consumption is not recommended in children. Furthermore, it is legally prohibited to broadcast advertisements with minors as recipients if the food articles have warning labels.
Though there was some predictable criticism and attacks from specific sectors of the industrial food system, the United National Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Argentina stated that the new labeling law was a critical step towards:
- Knowing and choosing what we eat;
- Protecting children from advertising;
- Promoting healthy school eating habits;
- Caring for our health.
What Does this new Food Labeling Law Mean for Regulations of Keto claims on Products in Argentina?
The recently passed labeling law in Argentina was designed to reduce the consumption of highly processed foods and sugary beverages, one of the critical drivers of obesity in the country and worldwide. Though the Keto diet and other diets that recommend reduced carbohydrate consumption can help people achieve their weight loss goals, there may be unforeseen consequences for Keto or other low-carb companies that market their food products in Argentina. Below, we’ll explore potential challenges the new frontal labeling law might pose to Argentina’s Keto and low-carb claims.
High Fat Warnings
The Keto diet seeks to replace carbohydrates with fats as the body’s primary “fuel” source. Many Keto and other low-carb food companies focus on providing their customers with foods with high content of healthy fats. With the new labeling law, many Keto food products may have to include the black octagonal warning symbol stating “excessive saturated fat” or “excessive total fat.” This could distract or confuse consumers who don’t have in-depth knowledge of how the Keto diet works.
Many Keto food products focus on healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which are good for your heart, cholesterol, and overall health. These healthy fats have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke and lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels while increasing good HDL levels.
However, the fact that the Argentinian law has created a separate label for “excessive total fat” levels does not distinguish between healthy and unhealthy types of fat. However, it is worth noting that vegetable oils and nuts are not required to have a warning stamp on the main face.
Pan American Health Organization Nutrient Profile
The maximum values of sugars, saturated fats, total fats, and sodium outlined in Argentina’s new frontal labeling law must meet the limits of the Nutrient Profile as set forth by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). This Nutrient Profile is a tool to classify processed and ultra-processed food and drink products that are in excess of critical nutrients such as sugars, sodium, total fat, saturated fat, and trans-fatty acids. According to their website, “It defines when products are high in sugars, fats, saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium, and it is based on the WHO Population Nutrient Intake Goals, which are adjusted according to the energy requirements, not a fixed amount per day.”
Though this nutrient profile seeks to urge against consuming ultra-processed food and drink products, it might also cause negative consequences to certain Keto or low-carb foods. For example, the PAHO NP model “classifies a food product as excessive in one or more critical nutrients if its relative nutrient content is higher than the corresponding maximum level recommended in the WHO PNIGs…However, because consuming food products classified as excessive in one or more critical nutrients increases the likelihood that the diet will exceed the recommended nutrient goals, consumers should be aware of these recommendations and limit their intake to achieve a healthy diet.”
As mentioned above, this model could force companies to warn against excessive fat content even if the product focuses on healthy fats and is part of a healthy, low-carb diet to help people achieve their weight loss goals.
However, it is also worth noting that only processed and ultra-processed food and beverage products should be evaluated with the PAHO NP Model. This may leave some wiggle room for health food products that operate in the Keto or low-carb niche.
The Final Word on Regulations of Keto Claims on Products in Argentina
None of the relevant food labeling laws and legislation in Argentina specifically mention the word Keto, nor do they specifically regulate against the use of low-carb claims on food packaging. However, the recently passed frontal labeling law could impair certain food companies that market high-fat products in the Argentinian market.