MEXICO CITY – President Enrique Pena Nieto launched a campaign against Mexico's obesity epidemic on Thursday, urging his countrymen to exercise more as Congress passed special taxes on junk food and sodas.
With seven in 10 adults either overweight or obese, Pena Nieto called for a "change of culture," saying Mexicans should walk more, climb stairs and exercise at least one hour every day.
"We can't keep our arms crossed in front of a real overweight and obesity epidemic. The lives of millions of Mexicans are literally at risk," the slim leader said.
The special taxes were approved by Congress despite heavy lobbying from the food and drink industry, which warned that the levies would do little to alleviate Mexico's weight problem while hurting the economy.
Mexico now has a higher rate of overweight people than the United States, and it also has the highest prevalence of diabetes among the 34-nation Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development.
Presenting his national strategy to prevent obesity and diabetes, Pena Nieto said the health ministry will open an "observatory" to monitor and respond to the problem.
Citing a health activist, Pena Nieto urged his countrymen to "dedicate at least one hour per day to exercise or a physical activity, which doesn't require much effort but that breaks with sedentary lifestyles... be it walking, climbing stairs."
The government will also offer a "nutritional quality" seal for healthier foods so that Mexicans know exactly what they are putting in their grocery carts.
The strategy includes a campaign to promote healthier lifestyles and better diets in a country that consumes 163 liters of sugary drinks per capita per year, the highest rate in the world.
The Mexican leader also cited the junk food and soda taxes that the Congress passed, saying the funds should be used for health programs and to increase access to drinking water in schools. -- AFP