SANTIAGO – Christmas supermarket shelves will take on a completely different look in Chile this Christmas season. A Supreme Court ruling has made the use of Santa Claus imagery on sugar and chocolate based products illegal. The ruling targets child obesity in Chile, as the country has one of the highest rates of child obesity in Latin-America.
Obesity is a growing epidemic and a leading cause of death world-wide and Chile is no exception placing second highest behind the USA in regards to obesity rates in the OECD. The situation in Chile is reaching crisis levels as statistics paint a dismal picture: two-thirds of the population is obese with at least one Chilean dying every hour from the disease.
Chile has a history of taking action against growing obesity rates by instituting a warning-label system on all packaged foods. Introduced two years ago, these easily visible warning signs tell consumers whether the item is high in sugar, calories, saturated fats or salts, all of which contribute to risk of chronic disease.
This year, as the Christmas season approaches, often filled with an abundance of sweet foodstuffs, the Supreme Court has taken another bold step forward by forbidding the use of Santa Claus imagery on chocolates and sweets. Any form of marketing of chocolates or sweets to children under the age of 14, including commercials, gifts, contests, games and so forth evoking the image of Santa Claus has also been deemed illegal. The court argues that the imagery of the popular Christmas character is specifically designed to attract children and is in no way related to the contents of the product itself.
The ruling comes following increasing claims that sugar, even more than fat, is the one of the biggest culprits in childhood and adult obesity. Those with a high-sugar diet are at a 38% higher risk of dying from heart disease versus those who limit sugar intake.
According to a University of Washington report, an astounding 107 million children, that is 5% of all children in the world, are suffering from obesity. Chile is leading by example in attempting to reduce this statistic. It is hoped that the restriction of alluring advertising of sweets aimed at children can curb sugar consumption during the upcoming holiday period.
Born in Ukraine but raised in Canada since a young age, Kateryna Kurdyuk has since acquired a Masters of Media Studies and Communication from University of Melbourne in Australia and worked in the education field in Dubai, UAE. While currently working as an English Professor in Santiago, Chile, Kateryna is using her extensive experience living and travelling abroad to contribute as a writer to the emerging independent English-language media in Chile.