NESTLÉ Philippines is seeking clarity on the Quezon City ordinance banning the sale of junk food and sugary drinks near schools, as more local government units are planning to follow the city’s example.
Nestlé Philippines Senior-Vice President and Head of Corporate Affairs Ernesto S. Mascenon said Quezon City’s rules are tougher than the Department of Education’s Department Order No. 13 Series of 2017 which recommended that unhealthy food and drinks should not be served in school canteens.
Last year, Quezon City implemented Ordinance 2579, known as the Anti-Junk Food and Sugary Drinks policy, which prohibits the sale and promotion of junk food and soft drinks within the 100-meter radius of the city’s public and private schools.
The ordinance identified unhealthy products such as “processed pre-packed snack food which are high in sodium and/or sugar such as chips, chicharon and popcorn,” among others. The ban also included street food or “unhealthy food, high in fat, calories and salt,” and sugary drinks which cover soft drinks, flavored shakes, sweetened powdered drinks, and sports drinks.
Nakalagay dun, sweetened milk, without indicating kung anong level of sugar, kung ano ibig sabihin ng sweetened. Ang milk, by itself, may lactose, sweetened na yun eh, inherent sugar yun eh. Pag di nila dinefine yun, pagbabawal nila within 100 meters ng school? (The ordinance included sweetened milk, without indicating the level of sugar or what ‘sweetened’ means. Milk itself is lactose, which is already sweetened. If they don’t define it, will this be banned within 100 meters of the schools),” Mr. Mascenon told reporters last week.
Nestlé’s milk products include Bear Brand and chocolate malt drink Milo.
As several local government units are reportedly considering implementing the junk food ban, Mr. Mascenon said the Philippine Chamber of Food Manufacturers, Inc., where it is a member, has raised the issue in a letter to President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
“We asked him, ‘can your office take the will in harmonizing the standards?’,” he said. “We cannot have different standards. If not, the food industry will be thrown into confusion. Ano yung basis bakit sinabi na bad yan. Dapat yung pag-set ng standards may basis. (What is the basis for saying it is bad. The standards should have a basis).”
Mr. Mascenon said the group has elevated its concern to Senator Vicente C. Sotto III, who has agreed to back a bill on the proposed harmonization of anti-junk food policies.
The Nestlé official said the group is in the process of crafting a position paper which it intends to submit to the Senate’s committees on trade, commerce and entrepreneurship and on health.
The company recently said it is considering shuttering its coffee processing plant in Cagayan de Oro, if operational costs continue to put local manufacturers at a disadvantage to competitors like Indonesia-based Kopiko that import 3-in-1 coffee drinks.
The coffee mix business is Nestlé’s biggest unit in the country, Mr. Mascenon said. — Janina C. Lim