Sayulita, Mexico - For many years, the United States bore the heavy honor of being the most obese nation on the planet. However, according to a new United Nations study, this dubious distinction now belongs to Mexico.
According to this report, roughly 70 percent of Mexicans are overweight and almost one-third are obese. Nearly a third of Mexican teenagers are also obese, a number that has tripled in the last decade alone. The vast majority of those teenagers will remain overweight for their entire lives, the study said, which could lead to weight-related health issues such as diabetes. As many as 70,000 people in Mexico die each year from diabetes, a number "roughly equal to the deaths authorities say are caused by more than six years of the country's violence."
Now, Mexico is taking an unusually strong step. If all goes according to plan, the government will impose a so called "fat tax." It will impose a tax of 10 per cent on sugar sweetened beverages, and even more to the point, an 8 per cent tax on junk food.
The legislation came about from a broad-based group called the National Health Alliance and networks representing 650 non-profits with many advisers to President Enrique Peņa Nieto and even supported by all opposition parties. Apparently, they all agreed that this was truly a national health crisis and wanted to do something about it. Tied in to this tax is a push to develop a potable water system that might help get people off the soda splurge, which is now 40 gallons per capita. Sweetened beverages are generally acknowledged to be a direct cause of the obesity "epidemic."
America might find Mexico's action embarrassing. In the United States, it is very hard to curb junk food, for example, since 98 percent of food advertising to children are foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium. The fast food industry spends over 100 billion dollars a year in promotion and who knows how much in lobbying. True, not all fast food is bad, but, unfortunately the French fries and sodas that accompany many of these meals is harmful.It might be a good notion to take a tip from Mexico and have our polarized government do something about what already is a national crisis.
Ed Schwartz has been involved in many aspects of fine wine for 30 years and has worked with top wineries in California, Italy and France. His writings on wine, food and travel have appeared in the SF Chronicle, LA Times and Image magazine.
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