The Sweet and Sour Truth: Mexico City’s Candy Market

Last Updated: June 16, 2024By

The Sweet and Sour Truth: Mexico City’s Candy Market


Walking through the bustling mercado de dulces in Mexico City’s historic center is like stepping into a candy wonderland. Everywhere you look, there are tempting treats: strawberry-flavored chocolates, mango gummies covered in Tajín, and so much more. The narrow aisles are packed with colorful packages. But if you look closely, you’ll notice black stop signs on many of these packages, warning you about “Excess calories” or “Excess sugars.” These warnings can make you think twice about your sweet indulgences.

A New Trend in Latin America

Latin America is at the forefront of a movement to add nutritional warning labels on food packages. These labels highlight when a product exceeds recommended daily values for nutrients like sugar, salt, and saturated fat. Some countries also include warnings for trans fats, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine. Now, scientists are urging people to consider another factor: how processed their food is.


The Rise of Ultra-Processed Foods

Ultra-processed foods are becoming a bigger part of the average Latin American diet. These foods, which are high in fats, sugars, and additives, were first studied by Brazilian researchers in the early 2000s. Today, many people in Latin America get 20% to 30% of their daily calories from these products. In the United States, it’s even higher—over 60%. As research grows on the health impacts of these foods, countries are pushing for labels on all ultra-processed products to warn consumers.

Early Efforts in Labeling

In the early 2010s, the Pan American Health Organization began exploring front-of-package labels to combat rising rates of non-communicable diseases. Fabio Da Silva Gomes from PAHO noted that traditional nutrition facts were too confusing for quick understanding.


In 2010, Mexico led the way by moving “daily guidance amounts” to the front of packages. Ecuador followed in 2014 with a “traffic light” label system. But the game-changer came in 2016 when Chile introduced a black stop-sign label, after research showed colorful labels could actually increase cravings. Chile also banned marketing these products to children and restricted their sale in schools.

Impact and Expansion

A 2021 study showed that Chilean families bought significantly less sugar and salt after the new labels were introduced. Food companies also began reformulating products to avoid the warning labels. The success in Chile led other countries like Peru, Uruguay, Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia to adopt similar measures.


Challenges and Corporate Pushback

However, not all countries have embraced the scientific consensus. Brazil’s 2022 label, a small black-and-white magnifying glass, doesn’t have the same impact. This highlights a broader issue: Latin American countries often have an easier time implementing health-focused labels because their constitutions prioritize public health over corporate free speech.

The international food industry has fought back, funding research to shift blame from diet to lack of exercise and lobbying against labeling laws. They’ve even tried tactics like printing labels on only one side of a package or using clear wrappers to display banned cartoon characters.

The Future of Food Labels

While no Latin American country has a specific label for ultra-processed foods yet, many are working towards it. Experts believe Latin America will continue to lead in this area, given its strong stance on public health. Current labels already cover most ultra-processed foods because they contain high levels of sugar, sodium, and saturated fats.

Final Thoughts

The science around ultra-processed foods is still evolving, but the goal is clear: make consumers aware of what they’re eating. Much like tobacco legislation that bans flavored products to reduce appeal, food labels aim to inform and protect public health. As research progresses, the push for clearer, more comprehensive food labeling is likely to grow.

Keep Reading

For more stories on health and nutrition, stay tuned!

latest video

news via inbox

Nulla turp dis cursus. Integer liberos  euismod pretium faucibua

Leave A Comment