Statement on front-of-package warning labeling and right to health

30 July, 2020

Dear HIFA colleagues,

I'm forwarding a message below, with permission, from Andres Constantin - originally posted via the PSCI-COM Science Communication forum.

Best wishes


HIFA profile: Julie N Reza is a UK-based specialist in communications for biosciences, global health & international development ( She predominantly works with NGOs and not-for-profit organisations. Previously she was the senior science editor at TDR, based at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva; prior to this she worked at the Wellcome Trust, UK, leading educational projects on international health topics including trypanosomiasis and trachoma. She has a PhD in immunology and a specialist degree in science communication. She also has several years research and postgraduate teaching experience. She is a member of the HIFA Steering Group and HIFA Social Media Working Group.

Email: naimareza AT


Dear All,

Last Monday, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dr. Dainius Püras released a statement< calling for decisive measures to tackle the global burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), through the adoption of front-of-package warning labelling regulations for unhealthy foods and beverages.

In the statement<, Dr. Püras urges states not to “remain passive in the face of NCDs” and to “proactively and comprehensively address the diet-related NCDs preventable risk factors”. This statement was also endorsed by the newly-appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri, and the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

A major step on the path toward addressing diet-related NCDs risk factors, Dr. Püras’ statement represents the first time a UN Special Procedures mandate-holder has addressed a concrete public health regulatory measure – in this case, front-of-package warning labelling – clearly characterizing it as an effective intervention to protect public health. In particular, he recognizes that, “states are required to adopt regulatory measures aimed at tackling NCDs, such as front-of-package warning labelling”. Recognizing that the right to health requires that states prevent third parties from interfering with this right, Dr. Püras calls on states to act with a sense of urgency to “decisively counter undue influence of corporations on government decision-making.” This will require states to strengthen “legal frameworks and safeguard the policies that protect the right to health, such as the front-of-package warning labelling, from commercial and other vested interests of food and beverage industries”.

The statement< develops different lines of argument and expands on the nature of the obligations emerging from the right to health in the context of NCDs. Some additional issues worth highlighting include:

* Front-of-package warning labelling is a “rights-compliant” response to tackle NCDs, and helps states fulfill human rights obligations;

* A clear reference to how food and beverage industries interfere with government law and policy making, also stating that states have a clear obligation to regulate corporate actors;

* Policies, such as front-of-package warning labelling, must be based on evidence that is free from conflict of interest, and should be formulated using a human-rights-based approach; and

* Front-of-package warning labelling is characterized as a “stepping stone for States to pursue a set of additional measures that promote and protect the right to health” in the context of unhealthy diets and NCDs.

We examine some of these issues in a recent blog post available here<

Warm regards,