Numerous Mexican states have introduced legislation aimed at restricting the sale of junk food to minors.
On the Gulf Coast, the state of Tabasco has restricted the sale of sugared drinks, while the state of Oaxaca in the south took a similar step earlier in August, The Associated Press reported. Several similar measures are in the works in other states throughout the country.
Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, meanwhile, said officials in the country’s single biggest retail market are “working with legislators to see if it is feasible to get similar legislation in Mexico City.”
Mexico has the third-highest confirmed number of deaths from the coronavirus, third to only the U.S. and Brazil. The government has said high blood pressure and diabetes were a contributing factor for several of the 57,774 Mexicans who have died from the virus as of Wednesday, according to the AP. The United Nation Children’s Fund has said children in Mexico have the highest consumption of junk food, with many getting up to 40 percent of their daily calorie intake from it.
Despite the immediacy, a precise definition of “junk food” is proving a challenge in writing the legislation. The traditional Mexican drink chilate, for example, contains ingredients like chocolate and sugar, and has been an institution in the country for centuries. Lawmakers are seeking ways to set their sights on processed, mass-produced and packaged foods manufactured by largely out-of-country corporations while sparing traditional Mexican sweets, the AP reported.
The country’s National Association of Small Store Owners has criticized the proposals and said that history is full of examples of such laws proving ineffective, like alcohol prohibition in the United States in the 1920s.
“History demonstrates that this kind of measure, instead of reducing consumption, increases it," Cuauhtémoc Rivera, the association's president, said in a statement. "Prohibition promotes informal sales, illegality and evasion, with absolutely no health safeguards."