Sugar is the New Tobacco: The Peruvian Junk Food Law in Light of the WTO Law after the Seals Dispute

18 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2014

See all articles by Gonzalo Bernal Neumann

Gonzalo Bernal Neumann

Lawyer at Estudio Echecopar- Baker & Mckenzie Lima office; Professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú

Date Written: July 8, 2014


The Global Community is aware of the imperative implementation of public strategies to reduce risk factors related with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as those caused by tobacco, alcohol, and unhealthy food and beverage consumption, particularly those which are marketed towards children and adolescents.

The International Set of Recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO) to combat NCDs, have suggested, not only high income states but also middle and low income states, to face potential policy interventions to address the challenges in controlling this growing health concern.

These domestic regulatory actions have sprout tension between public health objectives and WTO because of the potential inconsistency with those trade obligations whose objective is economic growth through freer trade, raising doubts about coherence within international law and state’s autonomy. Moreover, the above-mentioned circumstance raises serious doubts about a possible integration between International Health Instruments and WTO-Covered Agreements. The main question is to what extent WTO rulings can take into account international rules or standards related with health to interpret trade obligations.

Beneath this context, the Peruvian Government has adopted an Act with the goal of promoting healthy eating among children and adolescents and has disclosed a pre-publication of its regulation force that imposes mandatory health warnings to processed food and non-alcoholic beverages that exceed specific thresholds for sugar, sodium and saturated fats, establishing restrictions on the advertisement of these products focused on infants and adolescents, encouraging consumers to adopt healthier diets; however, this initiative has been extremely discussed by the food industry and health associations, focusing on whether this Act achieves their health goals or if it has negative effects on trade.

This paper will analyze the health objectives of the Peruvian Government, examining principally the legal design of the health warnings set into force by the adoption of the Peruvian Junk Food Regulation and how it may collide with WTO obligations, especially under the TBT agreement.

Keywords: Non-Communicable Diseases, NCDs, World Health Organization, WHO, Peruvian Junk Food Act, TBT agreement, International Health Instruments, marketing, healthy eating, children

Suggested Citation

Bernal Neumann, Gonzalo, Sugar is the New Tobacco: The Peruvian Junk Food Law in Light of the WTO Law after the Seals Dispute (July 8, 2014). Fourth Biennial Global Conference of the Society of International Economic Law (SIEL) Working Paper No. 2014-23, Available at SSRN:

Gonzalo Bernal Neumann (Contact Author)

Lawyer at Estudio Echecopar- Baker & Mckenzie Lima office ( email )


Professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú ( email )

1801 Universitaria Avenue
San Miguel
Lima, Lima Lima32

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