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Latin America Continues The Fight Against Junk Food

The countries of Latin America have for a long time looked north of the border to the United States as they have sought the wealth of their mighty neighbour. However, times may be changing with the possibility that the US may begin to look south in ways to combat social and health issues. Whilst a large proportion of North Americans stick to a diet of sugars and facts, countries such as Chile and Mexico are enacting experimental policies to curb obesity.


The Two Sides To Obesity

Recent policies attacking obesity in Latin America are relatively new due to the latest revelations that the poor can also be obese. On the one side of obesity as seen in the United States, it is often seen as a result of greed and gluttony whereas the governments of Latin America are facing the poorer segment of the population feasting upon cheap, high calorie foods. Countries in Latin America are taking the fight to face obesity head on, by introducing a number of initiatives that could be adopted by the US and indeed other countries facing problems with obesity.

Latin America’s Obesity Fighting Initiatives

With the waistlines expanding in Chile, a new food labelling system will come into effect this year. Food producers will be forced by legislation to emblazon their packages with warning labels if their food contains high concentrations of sugar, salt, calories or fat. The stable country in a sometimes volatile region, Chile will also be introducing a ban on advertising unhealthy food and products to children. Mexico, the closest neighbours to the United States, approved a tax of one peso, which is the equivalent of about eight cents, on each litre of sugar-filled drinks sold. Although a small measure, this health-related policy is a step in the right direction in battling the country’s obesity problems. Both the policies in Chile and Mexico are sending shockwaves throughout the US, as health advocates and those on the front line fighting against obesity in the United States marvel at such a strong stance on tackling the issue.

The initiatives sweeping through Latin America are making the region the world’s laboratory for possible future government policies elsewhere looking at steering consumers away from processed and unhealthy food. Some countries in Latin America have imposed taxes and in an incredible attempt to get rid of the temptation of fast food have banned McDonald’s from using toys to promote meals for children. For example, since 2012 in Peru, Uruguay and Costa Rica, junk food has been cut from public schools and in Ecuador, food labels feature the famous traffic light system.

Will The Fight Against Unhealthy Food Spread?

Some nations outside of Latin America have embarked on the long road in the fight against junk food, some more successful than others. In Denmark for example, the sugar tax introduced by its government was abolished as they found that Danish citizens were crossing the border in order to avoid the fat taxes. In New York last year, the courts struck down former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on supersize sugary drinks. Current mayor of New York, Bill de Basio, has said that he would pursue the matter however, he is likely to face the same backlash from the food industry that have deep pockets and made creative campaigns to rally support.

Although major food processors fight against restrictions imposed on their businesses and operations by government policies, the number of studies showing that an abundance of sugary foods leads to medical issues is ever growing. The University of California in San Francisco produced a report indicating that just a 10% reduction in the consumption of sugar in the US would avert 240,000 cases of diabetes annually as well as reducing the number of heart attacks and other health-related deaths. Generally speaking, the almighty food industry in the US has been successful in stopping a number of initiatives and so it would seem that any new initiatives would be fought with the same ferocity.

Throughout the United States there are a number of state and city-level initiatives however, health critics argue that countries such as the US can look to Latin America for initiatives, inspiration and the effort they need to put into the national health and food policy. The US is clearly a long way for introducing a national food policy as strong and similar to those emerging in Latin America. However, its proximity to the region of Latin America, will give the United States front-row seats of how certain policies are working and indeed could work within the US in the future.

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