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Mexico Steps Up in the Fight Against Obesity

March 14, 2011

Mexico, like nearly every other industrialized country, is fat. In fact, with 30% of their population categorized as obese and 70% overweight, Mexico is the fattest country in the world. But this January, officials put their foot down and said, “We have had enough.”

A recent New York Times article discusses new guidelines that went into effect on New Years Day, dictating what can be served and sold to children in schools around the country. The rules banned soft drinks and 90% of fried foods from the menus, and changed the composition of meals across the board.

Obesity starts early, so addressing how and what children eat is an important step in dealing with the obesity epidemic. Overweight children face physical and social complications, as well and an increased risk of being overweight or obese as adults. Obesity is a disease, and like any illness, prevention is always the best option.

Health officials began working on these regulations last year, but were quickly met with opposition from certain special interest groups: Namely, snack food companies. The resulting rules are not as strict as the original proposal, but officials say that the relaxed guidelines will still have an important impact.

The goal with all of this is to teach children moderation and to show them what types of foods will make them feel healthy and happy. Some things like lollipops, chips, and cookies are allowed under the modified guidelines, but they are now smaller and prepared in healthier ways (e.g. baked chips instead of fried).

Some schools are struggling because kids can get cheap junk food from vendors outside school grounds, but officials hope that by teaching children to navigate the food scene themselves that they will make better choices when face with those temptations.

The US has similar regulations in the works, plus another set of rules guiding vending machine options, but no date for implementation has been set and the exact rules are yet to be finalized.

What do you think? Should schools dictate what children eat?