Colombia becomes first nation to introduce ‘junk food law’ to prevent lifestyle diseases

Colombia passes junk food law. Photo Courtesy: Unsplash/ Junior REIS

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IBNS: Colombia is emerging as one of the first nations in the world to introduce ‘junk food law’ which might help tackle lifestyle disease, media reports said.

The new law aims to explicitly tax ultra-processed foods, earning appreciation from campaigners and health experts.

After years of campaigning, the “junk food law” came into force this month and a levy will be introduced gradually. An additional tax on affected foods will begin at 10% immediately, rising to 15% next year and reaching 20% in 2025, The Guardian reported.

“Countries around the world have been implementing health taxes, for example by taxing tobacco or sugary drinks, but few have extended them to processed foods,” Franco Sassi, international health policy and economics professor at London’s Imperial College Business School, told the newspaper.

Sassi said: “Colombia’s model is more expansive than what we have seen before and could serve as an example to other countries.”

Ultra-processed foods facing taxes are those with high added sugars, salt, and saturated fats, including sausages, cereals, jellies and jams, purees, sauces, condiments and seasoning, reported Health Policy Watch website.

The Colombian diet is high in sodium, which has been linked to an increase in cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and heart failure, which account for almost a quarter of deaths annually. The average Colombian consumes 12g of salt a day – the highest rate in Latin America and among the highest in the world. Nearly a third of adults in the country have high blood pressure, the Guardian reported.

Other non-communicable diseases linked to diet and obesity, such as diabetes, are also problematic, with more than a third of deaths attributed to diabetes occurring among the under-70s, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, reducing daily sodium intake by around 4,000 mg/day significantly lowered systolic blood pressure in more than 70% of adults, ages 50 to 75, in as little as one week compared to their usual diet, according to late-breaking science presented today at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023.

The meeting, Nov. 11-13, in Philadelphia, is a premier global exchange of the latest scientific advancements, research and evidence-based clinical practice updates in cardiovascular science. The full manuscript is also simultaneously published today in The Journal of the American Medical Association.