Mexico Targets Consumption of Sugary Drinks and Junk Food With National Tax

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Author: Ravi Singh

Posted: December 3, 2013

Categories: Food in the News / Good Food Ideas for Kids / GoodFoodBites

via New York Times:

Beginning in 2014, Mexico will begin charging a consumption tax for sugar-sweetened beverages and junk food, the latter of which is to be defined by caloric density and excludes “real foods” such as meat, dairy, and produce. The taxes to be imposed on these products will be 10% on sugary drinks and 8% on junk food.

The decision comes on the heels of Mexico surpassing the United States as the world’s most obese nation. The tax is expected to generate $1 billion per year, and though Mexico’s constitution forbids earmarking tax revenues for specific purposes, it has been largely agreed upon by all political parties that the funds generated from the tax will be used for public health initiatives such as installing drinking fountains in schools that dispense purified water. It has been argued that the unavailability of clean drinking water has resulted in an over reliance on soda.

Mark Bittman’s feature on the new tax in the Sunday New York Times praises the move by the Mexican government, especially the bipartisan manner in which the legislation was passed:

“…the reality is that the regulation of an industry that needs regulation is happening. And there could hardly be a more important and legitimate role for government than attending to the health and well-being of its populace; we need not reflect too long on the inability or unwillingness of the government of the country with the world’s largest economy to recognize this. (Equally embarrassing.)”

Nonetheless, Bittman also notes that taxes on junk food may not go far enough in combatting larger cultural challenges that fuel high rates of junk food consumption:

“Still, it’s difficult to be confident, especially since these taxes seem small against the overall challenge: significantly reducing consumption of sugar and controlling the marketing of junk food to kids. Furthermore, public health education is needed to turn around the culture of sugar, in which people may buy and drink sweet beverages despite higher costs and the presence of alternatives.”