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Mexico has introduced new rules for labelling alcoholic beverages in an effort to fight abuse of the ‘demon drink’, as Daniel Sanchez and Victor Ramirez of Olivares report.
In order to curb the epidemic of alcohol abuse—which has become a serious health problem in Mexico, as in many other countries—the Mexican government has revised and implemented new rules on labelling requirements for alcoholic beverages.
The regulatory framework is governed by the General Health Law (GHL), its regulations and the official standards, called Normas Oficiales Mexicanas (NOM). These standards provide specific and technical rules and requirements that must be met by products and services subject to regulation.
The authority in charge of enforcing the provisions on health and labelling requirements is the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk (COFEPRIS), which is part of the Ministry of Health.
Mexican Official Standard Rule NOM-142-SSA1/SCFI-2014 for Alcoholic Beverages (NOM 142) was published in the Federal Gazette last year by the head of COFEPRIS. It has the purpose of laying down the health specifications alongside the commercial and safety labelling provisions for alcoholic beverages that are commercialised in Mexico. The new labelling requirements provided by NOM 142 came into force on March 24, 2016.
In order to clarify any possible doubts over complying with NOM 142, on March 25, 2016 COFEPRIS published in the Federal Gazette a decree stating the criteria it will apply to determine compliance with this new standard. This decree provides clarification of some points that may cause doubt or confusion to manufacturers.
For instance, it provides that the import date of products or the bottling date (for beverages produced in Mexico) shall be considered in order to determine if certain products have to comply with the new standard requirements, because they will be considered as being produced before NOM 142 came in force.
"NOM 142 includes all specifications regarding the presentation of these symbols, such as size, colour and appropriate circumstances of use for each symbol."
NOM 142 establishes general provisions concerning the information that must be included on labels for alcoholic beverages, such as words or graphic representations of the product’s suggested use, as well as requirements regarding the presentation of the label’s information in order to verify that it is clear, legible, presented in Spanish and that it avoids leading consumers to be mistaken or confused about the nature and characteristics of the product.
- The following mandatory information must be included on labels for alcoholic beverages as of March 24:
- Name and trademark of the product. The common name of the product may be used.
- Name, company name and domicile for tax purposes.
- Name, company name and domicile for tax purposes of the entity responsible for importation. With imported products, the practice is to provide the information of the local distributor, ie, the company that will be responsible for observing the labelling requirements.
- Country of origin, including captions such as “Made in XXX”.
- Batch number.
- “Best-before” date.
- Alcohol content.
- List of ingredients, bearing in mind that the inclusion of the following ingredients must always be declared: cereals containing gluten, eggs, peanuts, soy, milk, tree nuts and derivatives.
- Cautionary notes, such as “Excessive consumption of this product may be bad for human health”.
One of the most important specifications of NOM 142 is the inclusion of new symbols seeking to discourage alcohol abuse, underage drinking, alcohol intake by pregnant women and drink-driving situations. These symbols must be included on the individual labels as well as all forms of packaging.
NOM 142 includes all specifications regarding the presentation of these symbols, such as size, colour and appropriate circumstances of use for each symbol.
COFEPRIS and the Federal Bureau for Consumer Protection (PROFECO) will be responsible for monitoring compliance with the requirements of NOM 142. While COFEPRIS will be in charge of monitoring and verifying compliance with the requirements that may have health implications, PROFECO will be responsible for monitoring and verifying compliance with the rules on information required for consumers. This will be achieved via random visits to the alcohol processing premises and on-shelf inspections.
In addition to the labelling requirements regarding commercial and health information, NOM 142 mandated new health requirements relating to the manufacturing process for alcoholic beverages. These requirements came into force on July 21, 2015—the effective date of NOM 142. While most of the requirements for manufacturing were already provided for in the GHL, important updates were made to the requirements regarding the quality of the raw materials, water and ethyl alcohol used in the manufacturing process, as well as all the necessary actions that the producers will have to take in order to ensure the product is not altered in the process.
For example, NOM 142 requires the use of water for human consumption or distilled and demineralised water if needed, and permits only vegetable-origin ethyl alcohol. Furthermore, producers must also keep a record of the following documents: invoices or documents that verify the acquisition of raw materials; documented proof of incoming and outgoing raw materials; documents detailing where finished products have been sent; and inventories of raw materials and finished products. This documentation should be preserved for at least two years.
The foregoing is important since NOM 142 sets forth that producers of alcoholic beverages must demonstrate that their products were not adulterated during the process of production, packaging or commercialisation.
Daniel Sanchez is a partner at Olivares. He has worked at the firm since 2000 and has experience in all areas of intellectual property including trademarks, copyright, patents and competition. Sanchez co-chairs the litigation team and the IT industry group at the firm. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Victor Ramirez is a senior associate at Olivares. He focuses his practice on counselling and prosecuting industrial property disputes such as invalidity and infringement proceedings before the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property. Ramirez also works on contractual transactions, advising and drafting licences, and counselling international clients on local regulatory issues. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
Daniel Sanchez, Victor Ramirez, Olivares, alcoholic beverages, General Health Law, COFEPRIS, NOM 142, Mexico, labelling