At a press conference last week, he discussed food labeling and the dangers of processed foods and said that his government would prioritize health, particularly that of children, enlisting food companies in the mass media effort.
“We have to give consumers increasingly clear and objective information to avoid junk food,” Lopez Obrador said. “With a good diet, we can prevent many diseases, and I think we will have the support of food companies.”
The Mexican Council of the Consumer Products Industry (ConMexico), which groups the leading companies in the drink and snack industry such as Arca Continental, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Hershey, Nestle and Bimbo, says that it has signed on to the campaign.
“We recognize the interest expressed by the president in an education campaign on healthy eating habits. The food and beverage industry will continue, as it has always done, promoting public policies that promote healthy lifestyles and the participation of all sectors of society,” the council told Forbes Mexico.
This is not the first effort to target nutrition in Mexico, however. In 2013, a United Nations report found that 70% of adults and a third of children were overweight or obese in Mexico, figures accompanied by an increased incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases and a huge economic burden on the country’s health system.
Several non-profit organizations reacted with mass media campaigns highlighting the health risks of soft-drink consumption and calling for the removal of all junk food and related marketing from children’s lives.
Also in 2013, the government announced its National Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Overweight, Obesity and Diabetes and enacted the groundbreaking 10% “soda tax” on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) the following year.
Despite this, Mexico continues to have one of the highest per capita soft drink consumption rates in the world, and the National Association of Producers of Refreshments and Carbonated Water (ANPRAC) told Food Navigator-LATAM that the soda tax has been ineffective in reducing obesity. In 2016, type 2 diabetes was tied to more than 100,000 premature deaths, prompting the Ministry of Health to declare an epidemiological emergency.
Lopez Abrado, the only candidate in the 2018 election to commit to raising the health budget, says social security in Mexico now allocates 16 billion pesos ($808,790,000) alone for hemodialysis.
Although the details of the president’s campaign have yet to be announced, health experts like the International Network for Food and Obesity/NCDs Research, Monitoring and Action Support (INFORMAS) urge a multisectoral approach that goes beyond education campaigns to concrete actions in front-of-package labeling, lobbying circles, supermarket aisles, budget formulation and school lunchrooms.