Sugary drinks: policy results in Mexico and Chile according to FAO

Mexico and Chile have promoted policies on sugary drinks aimed at reducing the prevalence of overweight and obesity, highlighted as examples the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The Organization stated that the consumption of sugary beverages has increased rapidly worldwide, which has been linked to weight gain, blood glucose and non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Public policies are increasingly being used to reduce the consumption of these beverages and prevent the constant increase in obesity and related diseases.

In Mexico, obesity has become in recent years a serious public health problem that affects all age groups.

The prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity in the country is 33%. Among the adult population, the prevalence of overweight and obesity is approximately 70%, while that of obesity alone is around 35%.

Around 70% of the sugar intake of Mexicans comes from sugary drinks, so reducing their consumption was the natural starting point of policies aimed at reducing the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the country.

Sugary drinks

To this end, in 2013, the Mexican government approved a special tax on the consumption of sugary beverages and a sales tax on some hypercaloric foods.

The special tax on these beverages came into effect on January 1, 2014, with strong opposition from Mexican food and beverage manufacturers.

This tax was 1 Mexican peso per liter of sugary drink, which is roughly equivalent to a 10 percent tax.

The rule established the annual adjustment of the tax based on the inflation index.

A recent study carried out a detailed evaluation of this normative intervention, aimed at alleviating the problem of overnutrition and its adverse health consequences.

According to the FAO, it was observed that, while this excise tax applied to beverage manufacturers, the tax burden fell almost entirely on consumers.

Likewise, it was estimated that the tax had led to a 6% reduction in the consumption of sugary beverages in the months after it came into force.

In December 2014, after one year of application, the reduction in the consumption of sugary drinks was estimated at 12 percent.

The greatest decrease in consumption was registered in poor households, with 17.4 percent. At the same time, a 4% increase in the consumption of sugar-free beverages was documented in the same year.


In Chile, concerns about the prevalence of overweight and obesity, especially among children, led to the adoption of policy measures.

In 2016, almost 25% of all primary school first-grade students in Chile suffered from obesity.

Given this, in 2016, the government approved the Law on the Nutritional Composition of Foods and its Advertising, known colloquially as the Food Law, a set of policies aimed at preventing the further increase in the prevalence of obesity.

These include the imposition of limitations on the marketing of hypercaloric foods and beverages with a high content of sugars, sodium and saturated fats, such as the prohibition of their sale in schools, as well as the adoption of a mandatory national labeling system. warning sign on the front of packages.

These measures led to a 24 percent reduction in purchases of sugary drinks.

Other nations

Following the success of Mexico’s experience of taxing sugary drinks to reduce their consumption, other countries facing the challenge of curbing the trend towards overweight and obesity have adopted similar policies.

For example, in 2017, six cities in the United States implemented taxation plans on sugary drinks.

Countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have imposed the highest taxes on sugary drinks to date.

Also, many nations are actively implementing measures such as front-of-package warning labels, including Peru, Uruguay and Ecuador, while others are considering Chile’s labeling law as a model for their own legislation.



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