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"Prefiera alimentos con menos sellos, y si no tienen, mejor"

The Chilean Ley de Alimentos (Spanish for "Food Law") is a law passed in Chile in 2016, describing the way that food can be packaged and marketed.

The law has two major components. The first is that food that is high in calories, salt, sugars, or saturated fat has to have a warning sticker " un sellos de avertencia" clearly on the packaging, displaying that fact. So when you buy a candy bar in Chile, there is a black octagon on the packaging, stating "Alto en AzĂșcares". The level of calories, etc. that a product has to reach before needing to display this sticker has been decreasing since the law was instituted in 2016. Some foods are also spared from the labels, although I don't know the exact logic behind it: my butter warns me that it is high in calories, but a bag of sugar does not warn me that it is high in sugar. Natural foods like cheese and eggs seem to be exempt from the rules.

Secondly, marketing unhealthy foods to children is prohibited, which means that snack or junk foods can not have any type of cartoons or mascot on their packaging. Toucan Sam and Tony the Tiger have been banished from Chile, and walking down an aisle full of sugary cereals is an unusual experience. Have you seen a box of Froot Loops with a bare front? It is a bit unsettling. Ronald McDonald is also out. Because they mostly depend on cartoon characters, holiday themed candy is also out, so no Christmas M&Ms, etcetera. Although I am not sure exactly how they decide, because you can still use such figures to sell unhealthy foods to adults. Ronald McDonald is out, but Captain Morgan can still sell rum. And Wendy's keeps their smiling mascot, perhaps on the idea that red-haired Wendy's is not specifically meant to appeal to children.

Banning Tony the Tiger might seem like a drastic step, and in the United States, none of this would ever pass a First Amendment test. And while there hasn't been enough time to judge whether the law has changed people's habits, it is addressing a very serious problem. Chile is the OECD country with the lowest income and is basically the "least developed" developed nation. The society and the economy have rapidly changed, and Chile is now facing First World Problems. And obesity, along with conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, are very much first world problems. Chile has a life expectancy of around 80 years, slightly longer than the United States of America, and slightly below most developed countries. As the population pyramid shifts towards an older population, the economic and human costs of chronic lifestyle diseases become a gigantic social problem, one that Chile has less of a buffer to deal with than, say, Norway. So the reason behind the Ley de Alimentos makes a lot of sense, even if, on the face of it, banishing the Green M&M seems to be an extreme and silly move.

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