Ignorance of #obesity in #Mexico driving me nuts!!

When you know a little about something and a host of people who know nothing about something make loud claims about that something, it gets pretty frustrating.

That something is #obesity in #Mexico and their junk food (note NOT sugar!) tax

Mexico – the fattest country in the world –  implemented a national strategy for the prevention of overweight and obesity in 2014 and part of that was introducing a tax of one peso per litre on soft drinks on Jan 1st of that year. Sales dropped by 6% in the first year. However the context for this success is critical.

  1. Mexico has a major problem with drinking water:
  2. Most Mexicans do not trust or drink the tap water. More than 10% of the population have no access to running water[1]. The city’s giant 1985 earthquake burst water pipelines and sewers, increasing waterborne diseases, and officials blamed water supply systems for a spread of cholera in the 1990s. Mexicans consume 69 gallons (260 litres) of bottled water per capita each year compared to (116 litres) in the USA[2] – more than anywhere else in the world.
  3. Coca-cola was – and in many places still is – cheaper than water – it’s what families drank morning, noon and night[3]. Bottled water can be found at a cheaper price than soda[4], but when I was in Mexico in December, outside of supermarkets, bottled water was still more expensive.
  4. UK tap water is safe to drink. Average per capita UK bottled water consumption is 40 litres[5].
  5. Other taxes:

At the same time as the obesity law, to encourage people to drink water, another law was introduced in Mexico City officials to force 65,000 restaurants install water filters with health inspectors able to impose $125 to $630 fines to those not complying. Encouraging Mexicans to drink water is a massive issue for the government.

As well as the SODA tax (NOT SUGAR), an 8% tax on junk food[6] was also introduced on non-essential foodstuffs of over 275 calories per 100g[7]. In addition, Mexico did try to put other OECD suggestions in place[8] on labelling, education and marketing but most of these have been undermined – mostly, it is claimed, by industry.

The other thing I noticed there in December was that apart from diet coke, there were NO diet sodas in any of the shops, cafes or road-side stalls.

YES Mexico has a soda tax (NOT a sugar tax); YES consumption of soda has dropped a little; there is NO evidence that there has been any impact on obesity; Mexico CANNOT be held up as the global example of a successful sugar tax. I am just saying.

[1] http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2013/09/04/mexicos-bottled-water-addiction/

[2] http://phys.org/news/2014-01-mexico-city-law-habit.html#jCp

[3] http://english.periodismohumano.com/2013/03/05/the-coca-colization-of-mexico-the-spark-of-obesity/

[4] http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=Mexico

[5] http://www.statista.com/statistics/283766/bottled-water-consumption-per-person-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/

[6] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/01/world/americas/mexico-junk-food-tax-is-approved.html?_r=0

[7] http://www.internationaltaxreview.com/Article/3299441/Companies-will-have-to-collect-new-Mexican-taxes-to-combat-obesity.html

[8] http://www.oneillinstituteblog.org/the-devils-in-the-detail-mexicos-broken-obesity-prevention-campaign/

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About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social pioneer, writer, campaigner and commentator. Formerly a clinical optometrist specialising in diabetes and visual impairment, she is the founder and Director of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal and Social. 2020health has through research, events and campaigning influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. In 2014, 2020health were founding partners of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Since 2016, 2020health has increasingly focused on digital health and public health in the community. Julia is a Fellow of the RSA and now also a part-time PhD student at the UCL Interaction Centre, studying the use of digital technology for stress management in the workplace. Julia has shared 2020health's research widely in the media (BBC News, ITV, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions & Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Radio 4 Today, PM and Woman's Hour, LBC) and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week.
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