Mexico food labeling rules draw fire on sugar

by Mark Stevenson
In this July 10, 2013, file photo, office workers eats tacos at an outdoor food stand during lunch time in Mexico City. Mexico has surpassed the United States in levels of adult obesity. Mexico's new food labeling rules were supposed to help fight an obesity epidemic, but activists and experts said Monday, april 21, 2014, that they may actually encourage the public to consume high levels of sugar. (AP Photo/Ivan Pierre Aguirre,File)

Mexico's new food labeling rules were supposed to help fight an obesity epidemic, but activists and experts said Monday they may actually encourage the public to consume high levels of sugar.

The debate over has grown bitter, in a country with one of the highest obesity rates in the Western Hemisphere.

The new label rules unveiled last week list the amount of sugar and other contents as a percent of recommended daily intakes. The new labels will no longer list the weights of the ingredients, instead simply listing them as calories and percentages of recommended daily intake.

But the labels assume that an average acceptable daily consumption of sugar is about 360 calories, equivalent to about 90 grams of sugar.

The World Health Organization has proposed a of as little as 100 calories or about 25 grams per day.

Almost three dozen public health and nutrition experts published a full-page ad in Mexican newspapers Monday saying the new rules "increase the risk of obesity and diabetes."

It said the labeling system "is difficult to understand and represents a serious risk to the health of Mexicans," according to the ad.

The government health agency responsible for publishing the new rules last week did not immediately answer calls for comment.

"This is terrible, because some people are going to see this label ... and they're going to say, 'well, I'll drink this Coca Cola, because it is 70 percent of my sugar requirement, and I can drink another 6 ½-ounce one, to get 100 percent of what they recommend I get of sugar,'" said Alejandro Calvillo, head of the Consumer Power activist group.

Calvillo said the decision to stop listing the weight of sugar in products was a mistake, in part because his group had some success in educating the public that 90 grams of sugar are equal to about 6 tablespoons—about two-thirds of a cup.

Mexico is among the fattest countries in the world. Just under one-third of adults are obese, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Seven out of 10 Mexicans are overweight and the country has surpassed the U.S. in , according to a United Nations report, mostly due to a diet of fatty foods and sugary sodas.

Last year, Mexico's lawmakers approved a new tax on junk food as part of the government's campaign to fight . The move came a little over a day after legislators agreed to tax soft drinks. Mexicans drink an average of 163 liters (43 gallons) of soft drinks annually, also among the highest soda consumption rates in the world.

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mexico nears junk food tax, sets anti-obesity plan

Oct 31, 2013

Mexico's congress approved a new tax on junk food Thursday as the government announced a campaign to fight obesity in a country with one of the world's highest rates of overweight people. The move came a ...

"Sugar is the new tobacco," says expert

Jan 09, 2014

Professor Simon Capewell, from the University of Liverpool's Institute of Psychology, Health and Society is part of a campaign, `Action on Sugar', aimed at reducing the amount of added sugar in food and soft ...

NY mayor praises Mexico soda tax plan (Update)

Sep 11, 2013

President Enrique Pena Nieto's plan to tax sugary drinks to curb Mexico's obesity epidemic earned him praise Tuesday from New York's mayor and health advocates but soda makers slammed it as ineffective.

WHO: 5 percent of calories should be from sugar

Mar 05, 2014

Just try sugar-coating this: The World Health Organization says your daily sugar intake should be just 5 percent of your total calories—half of what the agency previously recommended, according to new draft ...

Recommended for you

New toilets for India's poor, crime-hit village

21 hours ago

More than 100 new toilets were unveiled Sunday in a poverty-stricken and scandal-hit village in northern India, where fearful and vulnerable women have long been forced to defecate in the open.

Can YouTube save your life?

Aug 29, 2014

Only a handful of CPR and basic life support (BLS) videos available on YouTube provide instructions which are consistent with recent health guidelines, according to a new study published in Emergency Medicine Australasia, the jo ...

Doctors frequently experience ethical dilemmas

Aug 29, 2014

(HealthDay)—For physicians trying to balance various financial and time pressures, ethical dilemmas are common, according to an article published Aug. 7 in Medical Economics.

AMGA: Physician turnover still high in 2013

Aug 29, 2014

(HealthDay)—For the second year running, physician turnover remains at the highest rate since 2005, according to a report published by the American Medical Group Association (AMGA).

Obese or overweight teens more likely to become smokers

Aug 29, 2014

A study examining whether overweight or obese teens are at higher risk for substance abuse finds both good and bad news: weight status has no correlation with alcohol or marijuana use but is linked to regular ...

User comments