Colombia · Decision · Judicial

Colombian Parents’ Corporation of Mothers and Fathers, Red PaPaz v. Ministry of Health (Case No. 25000234100020190106300)

Issue:

Whether the lack of an appropriate regulatory framework on ultra-processed food products violate the collective right to health of consumers, and particularly of children.

Summary:

The action was filed by a non-governmental organization, Red Papaz, against the Ministry of Health, the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce [Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio], the Administrative Department of the Presidency of the Republic, the Communications Regulation Commission [Comisión de Regulación de Comunicaciones], the National Institute for Food and Drug Surveillance [Instituto Nacional de Vigilancia de Medicamentos y Alimentos, INVIMA], the National Television Authority [Autoridad Nacional de Televisión], as well as against food producers Alpina Food Products S.A., and Gaseosas Tobón S.A.

Red Papaz argued that the violation of the collective right to health and consumer rights stemmed from the following facts:

(i) lack of clear, truthful, comprehensible and sufficient information for consumers on food products, particularly through the adoption of an adequate regulation for front-of-pack labeling scheme (FOPL, in Spanish “etiquetado frontal de advertencia”). After reviewing the evidence presented, the Tribunal ordered the Ministry of Health to issue as soon as possible an amendment to the existing regulation on FOPL (Regulation No. 810 of 2021) to bring it into compliance with the requirements lied down in Article 5 of Law No. 2120 of 2021. Specifically, the Tribunal ordered that the Ministry of Health take into account the best available scientific evidence free from conflict of interest, and specifically a scientific study conducted by the University of Antioquia. Moreover, it ordered the creation of a committee formed by the non-governmental organizations  (Red PaPaz, FIAN and Educar Consumidores) to monitor compliance with the order.

(ii) dissemination of misleading advertising of food products by food producers by Alpina Food Products S.A., and Gaseosas Tobón S.A. On this point, the Tribunal found that the advertising videos that were the object of the claim were not available in Colombia anymore at the time of the action. For this reason, it dismissed the plaintiff’s request.

iii) failure to carry out administrative procedures that seek to guarantee children’s rights by the relevant administrative organs. On this point, the Tribunal held that the plaintiff did not prove that the contested actions amounted to a violation of the right to administrative morality, both in its objective and subjective element.

iv) signing of the “pact for the growth of the processed food sector”(“pacto por el crecimiento del sector de alimentos procesados”) in 2019, which stated that the adoption of a mandatory FOPL could be a “bottleneck” for economic growth in the country. On this point, the Tribunal noted that the pact did not have a binding nature, and should be now read in light of the Law No. 2120 of 2021, which mandated the adoption of FOPL in Colombia. For this reason, it dismissed the claim.