Decision · Judicial

Herdez and others v. Government (Case No. 465/2022)


The constitutionality of the amendments to the General Health Law and to NOM-51 that adopted front-of-package warning labels for prepackaged food and beverages.


In 2020, some food and beverage producers filed an indirect amparo lawsuit (“juicio de amparo indirecto” No. 1017/2020) against the amendments to the General Health Law and the modifications to NOM-051 that adopted front-of-package warning labels for prepackaged food and beverages (FOPwL, in Spanish, “etiquetado frontal de advertencia”). The lawsuit was initially addressed by a District Judge in Mexico City, who decided to dismiss the case and deny federal protection to the plaintiffs. Disagreeing with this decision, the companies filed a revision recourse (“amparo en revisión” No. 465/2022).

The plaintiffs argued that the normalization and regulatory improvement procedures were flawed and that the modifications to NOM-051 violated principles of equality, non-discrimination, and equity. In 2024, in a public decision draft, the Full Chamber of the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice [Tribunal Pleno de la Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación] upheld the constitutionality of the amendments.

The substantive part of the judgement can be summarized in three parts:

  • Constitutionality of Article 212 of the General Health Law that foresees the adoption of FOPwL. The Court ruled that the constitutional foundation of this norm can be found in Art. 4 and 28 of the Mexican Constitution, which protects the right to health, the right to adequate food and consumer rights. Moreover, citing documents by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the Court held that the FOPwL were an appropriate measure to protect public health and inform consumers, and more effective than the alternative FOPL systems (the Guidelines Daily Amount (GDA), NutriScore, or the traffic light system). For these reasons, the Court ruled that Article 212 of the General Health Law was constitutional, insofar as it passed the proportionality test.
  • Regulatory procedures to adopt the amendments to NOM-51. The Court analyzed the steps taken in the standard-setting process, from planning to publication, and addressed formal complaints regarding the procedural aspects of the standard’s modification. The discussion on procedural violations highlighted that while the plaintiffs argued for procedural missteps in the norm-setting process, the Court found these concerns to be founded but ultimately determined that they did not invalidate the law.
  • Substantive arguments on the amendments to NOM-51. Finally, the Court delved into the substantive arguments against NOM-051, covering issues such as equality, non-discrimination, regulatory hierarchy, and consumer protection during the transitional period of the norm. The Court refuted all the grievances presented by the plaintiffs, upholding the measure.