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I have just come across the labels used in Chile to signal to the consumer that products may contain high levels of various things like saturated fats, sodium, sugars and so on. Looking on Google images I find lots of images of the labels but it is always alto. But if it is on a food substance which is feminine should there not be a parallel set of labels Alta en ...?

Note I have seen the question ¿Qué tipo de palabra es «alto»? about alto as an interjection meaning stop but that does not seem to fit here where I am sure it means high.

Just in case it is the slightest relevance I am reviewing an article about the effect of the law which introduced them but my question here is pure curiosity.

                                        Alto en azucares

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    Notice that the Chilean brand linked by @Gustavson (whose image I have included) prints the label using the same shape as the traffic signal (the one that represents the interjection), playing with both meanings.
    – RubioRic
    Sep 6 '19 at 11:41
  • @RubioRic That's a very good point!
    – Gustavson
    Sep 7 '19 at 15:41
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"alto" is an adjective here indicating, as you said, an elevated level or quantity. There may be, as I see it, two reasons why the masculine gender is used:

  1. To indicate neutrality (the thing referred to may be masculine or feminine in gender)

  2. To agree with the tacit noun "contenido" (contents) or perhaps "producto".

It goes without saying that labels need to be kept short so writing something like "(Producto con) Alto contenido de grasas saturadas" would take up unnecessary space compared with "Alto en grasas saturadas".

Additionally, the mentioned labels are thus prescribed by food regulations.

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  • I have always understood this usage to tacitly include "producto", as you set forth in point 2. Excellent answer.
    – Josh K
    Sep 5 '19 at 0:47
  • @JoshK I`ve been thinking that "alimento" could also be the tacit word. Some might argue that in that case feminine "bebida" would be left out, but I think "alimento" is more generic.
    – Gustavson
    Sep 5 '19 at 1:13

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