Thursday, August 07, 2008

Mexico challenges U.S. in obesity

It is hard to ignore all the publicity that Mexico´s problem with obesity is attracting. There are the solemn editorials, the ads promoting various products and the pronouncements by politicians (it´s a safe topic if you frame it as concern about public health).

(In this cartoon the headline says Mexico is a leader in obesity, and the character is saying this isn´t the best way to get status as a big country.)

Various studies show the U.S. as the world leader in the percentage of obese people, followed by Mexico and the U.K. See chart.

The business magazine Expansion recently ran a cover story that detailed what various food producers are doing in Mexico to respond to all the publicity. Some of them have been singled out as part of the problem. And which companies are they? Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, Kellogg, and Bimbo, an international baked goods company. Their eat-healthy campaigns might be good for the image but not for the bottom line. Some of the healthy products don´t sell.

Here´s an article in English that will tell you what the Mexican papers are saying: more than 71 percent of Mexican women and 66 percent of Mexican men are overweight.

While I was in England, the British press took every opportunity to make jokes and cartoons about obese Americans. They also liked to point out the problems that Mexico was having. Occasionally they poked fun at themselves, as in this cartoon about a plan to have schools notify parents that their child might have a weight problem.

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