Rio de Janeiro on the road to healthier schools

Championed by Instituto Desiderata, Bill 1662/19 bans the offer of ultra-processed foods and drinks in schools in Rio de Janeiro

Desiderata Institute celebrates the approval of Bill 1662/19

The Rio de Janeiro City Council approved, on Tuesday, June 13, Bill 1662/2019, which prohibits the distribution and sale of ultra-processed foods and beverages in schools in the city. This means that public and private educational institutions in Rio must promote healthy food environments, allowing children and adolescents to make health-conscious choices.

Consumption of ultra-processed foods can lead to obesity, which is a risk factor for chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Bill 1662/2019 was created with the goal of preventing childhood obesity and was approved in its first voting round in August 2021.

After facing intense industry interference to be shelved or have its text severely altered via amendments, and being postponed a few times, it was unanimously approved on June 13, 2023. The bill was signed into Law by mayor Eduardo Paes on July 11, 2023 (now  Local Act 7987/2023), making Rio de Janeiro the second city in the state to have a law prohibiting the sale of ultra-processed foods in schools. In Niteroi, a similar Law, Local Act 3766/2023, was passed on 05 January 2023.

Desiderata Institute supports approval of bill in Rio

The Instituto Desiderata, which works to prevent childhood obesity and promote adequate and healthy food, followed the bill, and mobilized society in favor of its approval. 

“We believe these changes must be collective. In the case of Rio de Janeiro, we engage in advocacy in the legislative and executive branches. We have been working on these bills since 2020, producing data and technical papers, meeting with councilors face to face, and participating in these negotiations to create laws that reflect this entire democratic process and that can really regulate the consumption of UPPs, and be fully applicable. This is a very important movement, when civil society organizes itself to negotiate with the government, to bring demands and formulate strategies that improve the lives of the population”, explains Renata Couto, executive director of the Institute.

Our advocacy enabled us to have a seat on the table during the discussions around the bill, including discussions with the presence of the industry representatives that lobbied for the bill to be shelved. During the negotiations we were able to preserve the strength of the ban on UPPs in public and private schools and even include a daily fine of R$1,500.00 for non-compliant schools. We, however, lost the other two objects of the bill – the establishment of lactation room in companies and the display of UPPs in commercial establishments above children’s eyesight.

We also had to make minor alterations in the text, removing the list of foods identified as ultra-processed. In its place, we added the ultra-processed definition from the Food Guide for the Brazilian Population. Now private and public schools have 180 days to adapt to the new rules.

“There is a transition period for schools to adapt to the new model, during which we must provide extensive support. Desiderata is collaborating with UFMG (Federal University of Minas Gerais) to create a guide for healthy school canteens. The transition will take time, but we must engage in dialogue for schools and canteens to make this transition and for this law to be implemented in a consistent, responsible, and positive manner for all parties”, concludes Renata.

Check out some photos of the vote that approved Bill 1662/19 in Rio:

Desiderata team follows vote on Bill 1662/19
The vote was held in Rio de Janeiro City Council
Desiderata obesity manager Raphael Barreto gives press interview
Desiderata team follows vote on Bill 1662/19
Desiderata team follows vote on Bill 1662/19