The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned about the need to change eating habits in Mexico, where 73% of the adult population is overweight or obese.
Unfortunately, Mexico is one of the leading countries in obesity, including men, women and children. It is a problem of great seriousness,” said Julio Berdegué, regional representative of FAO, within the framework of the 35th FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, which took place last week in Montengo Bay, Jamaica.
“Unfortunately in our region it is cheaper to eat junk food than to eat healthy and there are millions of families who do not have enough money to eat healthy,” he added.
According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey (ENSANUT), in 2016 73% of the adult population in Mexico was overweight or obese: 7 out of 10 adults, 4 out of 10 teenagers and 1 in 3 children.
Berdegué thinks that, although the Ministry of Health has done a good job giving attention to the issue of diabetes and obesity, more government action is needed in this sector, as well as for the food sector participation, to legislate on clear labeling of the food and school education.
“We need vigorous action from the Mexican government to face this situation that is already at levels of a national health problem, causing thousands of deaths a year,” said Berdegué.
The FAO director explained that social inclusion programs such as Prospera and the parastatal company Liconsa “have to take part in the battle” so that 20 or 30% of the poorest population can access the consumption of healthier foods.
Prospera already has the measures of size and weight of children and can perfectly say: ‘your child is overweight and obese, and I can help you to buy a healthier food basket’ “, he exemplified.
“Also the Mexican private companies have to help us. They have to make a much more vigorous effort to reduce calories,” said the manager, mentioning that it is also necessary to legislate the “clear” labeling of foods.
The consumer should know that what he is buying in terms of fat, salt and calories, and that if he wants to buy, at least he or she should be provided clear information. That needs to be legislated, he insisted.
In the case of sugary drinks the tax they pay in Mexico is very low, he added. Finally, Berdegué said that this should be accompanied by complementary measures in school education.
“We have to educate children to eat healthy and tell them that they cannot eat that because it is bar for them, we need to generate healthy environments, because it is not right that children consume foods full of calories, fats and sugars in schools”, he claimed.
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