Knowledge for better food systems

Article discussing the implementation of a soda tax in Mexico

This article in the UK newspaper, the Guardian, tells the story of how Mexico implemented its soda tax in 2014, the political debates that surrounded the decision and the lobbying efforts and reactions of the country’s powerful soda industry.

Mexicans drink more soda per person than most other countries and have the world’s highest death rate from chronic diseases caused by consumption of sugary drinks by far. South Africa, at second place, has only a third of the consumption levels seen in Mexico.

The article describes some of the possible explanations for how Mexico became one of the world’s top soda consuming countries. It highlights the influence of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which came into effect in 1994 and increased the availability of processed foods, as well as the lobbying efforts of major soda companies who, among other things, created a campaign to increase the policy focus on people exercising more rather than reducing their intake of sugary drinks (this despite evidence that diet is a more important influence on obesity than exercise).

The article describes the Mexican Government’s investment in consumer education programmes and commercials at complements to the introduction of the tax. The tax appears to have an effect on consumption despite a rather slow start, soda sales in December 2014 were down 12% from December 2013 and the poorest Mexican were the ones who reduced their consumption the most.

Read the full article in the Guardian here

You can read more about the results of the tax in the journal BMJ, where a recent observational study examined the effects of this tax on soda purchases in Mexcio one year after implementation, read it here

See more on food and agriculture policy, food taxes, sugar tax, obesity/overweight, soft drinks, health policy, governance and policy, industry actions/CSR, political economy.

For an overview of the effectiveness of interventions geared at shifting consumption patterns, including price based interventions you can read a report by FCRN and Chatham House on “Policies and actions to shift eating patterns: What works?”.

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Latin America and the Caribbean

Latin America and the Caribbean occupies the central and southern portion of the Americas. The region is home to the world’s largest river (the Amazon River), the largest rainforest (the Amazon Rainforest), and the longest mountain range (the Andes). Export-oriented agriculture constitutes an important part of the economy, especially in Brazil and Argentina. This large continent has a range of climates spanning the ice of Patagonia, the tropical forests of much of the continent, and more temperate regions in, for example, Mexico and Chile. Due to the greatly differing geography and economic development in the continent, all types of agriculture can be found in Latin America. Subsistence farming and cash cropping with coffee, cocoa and so on are common in many nations including most of central America, whereas large-scale beef production in the cerrado of Brazil provides an example of hyper-large farms run by large businesses.

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