Mexico has passed a law that imposes significant new taxes on sugary drinks and junk food.
President Enrique Peña Nieto, has successfully passed an eight percent tax on junk foods – foods high in salt, sugar and saturated fat, as well as an four percent tax per litre on sugary drinks such as soda.
In doing this, Peña Nieto has resisted heavy lobbying from industry and various warnings that the tax could affect the country’s economy. The president argues that the government has taken a long-term view of the situation as the potential economic harm from reduced sales of junk food/ drinks is relatively insignificant to the medicals costs associated with food related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, The Guardian reports.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, 32.8 percent of Mexicans are classified as clinically obese – a higher rate than the United States. In addition, some 9.2 percent of Mexican children now have diabetes.
Diabetes is reported to have cost the lives of 81,000 Mexicans in 2011 equating to billions in health care costs each year. It is these statistics which have inspired the president to call for a 'change of culture.'
"We can't keep our arms crossed in front of a real overweight and obesity epidemic," the president said. "The lives of millions of Mexicans are literally at risk."
Money raised from the new taxes will go towards associated health programmes and clean water initiatives and the government will also be introducing a nutritional stamp of approval of healthier foods on sale in supermarkets.
A similar tax was introduced by Denmark last year. The country introduced a ‘fat tax’ on foods with high saturated fat content in 2012, but scraped it six months later as consumers were found to be travelling across the border to make purchases – impacting on the local economy.
The Danish Tax Ministry stated that “The fat tax and the extension of the chocolate tax, the so-called sugar tax, has been criticised for increasing prices for consumers, increasing companies' administrative costs and putting Danish jobs at risk.
"At the same time it is believed that the fat tax has, to a lesser extent, contributed to Danes travelling across the border to make purchases.”