by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Mexico

Oct 28 2022

Weekend viewing: The Mexican government’s healthy eating campaign

This is too good not to share.  I learned about it from this tweet from Simon Boquera at Mexico’s Public Health Institute.  It’s a bit over two minutes and aimed at kids.

Wish we had something like this!

 

Jan 4 2022

Food industry influence on international labeling policies: a report

To continue the thene of yesterday’s post, check out this report from the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (an international organization that supports advocacy).

 

The report documents the food industry’s strategies to defeat warning labels on ultra-processed food products (UPP).

1. Protect the UPP industry’s reputation and brands through corporate washing;
2. Influence policies through multilateral bodies to delay implementation and threaten countries with legal and economic concerns;
3. Divert attention from its corporate responsibility on the damage to environmental and human health to blame individuals for their behaviors;
4. Imply that their products contribute to health, the environment, and society while blocking the development and implementation of healthy food policies; and
5. Seek loopholes in regulations to continue promoting ultraprocessed products.

For example, here is how strategy #5 was implemented in Mexico:

Here, also for example, is image #27:

What should civil society organizations be doing to counter industry tactics?

  • Monitor and unmask industry practices
  • Use legal strategies
  • Avoid loopholes, gaps, and ambiguities when developing labeling  policies
  • Demand transparency and no conflicts of interest

This report is exceptionally well documented, covers an enormous range of countries, and gives a quick but compelling overview of how the food industry operates internationally to product product sales.

Oct 16 2020

Good news #5: Mexico’s public health nutrition actions

The Mexican state of Oaxaca became the first to ban the sales of junk foods to children under the age of 18.

The state of Tabasco did the same.

A dozen other Mexican states are considering similar actions.  The rationale is clear: the health consequences of obesity in general and with Covid-19 in particular.

One-third of Mexicans aged 6 to 19 are overweight or obeseaccording to UNICEF. They may not be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 now, but they can suffer myriad health issues, especially in adulthood.

And Mexico’s new warning labels are now in effect and will be required for all packaged foods by the end of the year.

Mexico has been able to implement these measures despite overwhelming food industry opposition.

How?  I credit the outstanding advocacy work of the Mexico’s National Institute of Public Health and the consumer coalition, Alianza por la Salud Alimentaria.

Jul 20 2020

Conflicted nutrition interests in the midst of Covid-19

Simón Barquera, who directs the Center for Research on Nutrition and Health at the National Institute of Public Health in Cuernavaca, sent me a copy of this letter, which he found on Twitter (but it’s no longer there):

It’s from the president of the Mexican Society of Nutrition and Endocrinology thanking Coca-Cola for donating Personal Protective Equipment to deal with Covid-19.

The Mexican Nutrition Society has a cozy relationship with Coca-Cola?

I wonder what that’s all about.

Conflicts of interest anyone?

Jun 19 2019

PepsiCo’s $4 billion investment in Mexico

I was interested to see what BakeryandSnacks.com had to say about PepsiCo’s investment in Mexico.

This company, which makes ultra-processed drinks and snacks, plans to invest $4 billion in Mexico over the next two years.

The $4 billion will be spent on “four strategic areas:”

  • Improved supply chains for potatoes, corn, and sugar, purchased from small, medium and large producers ($1 billion).
  • Improved nutrient profile of PepsiCo products (the total is unspecified but $13 million will go to reducing saturated fats).
  • Reduced CO2 emissions and increased renewable energy (amount unspecified).
  • Strengthened development programs focused on water, recycling, nutrition and the empowerment of women (> $7 million).

This is on top of the $5 billion Pepsi invested in Mexico in 2014 for “product innovation, brand consolidation, infrastructure, sourcing, and community outreach.”

Pepsi has a big operation in Mexico.  It claims the new investment will add 3000 jobs to the 80,000 it already employs there.

What is this about?  In 2017, Mexico’s $3.6 billion in sales represented nearly 6% of PepsiCo’s total global net revenues of $63.5 billion.

I’ll bet Pepsi sees plenty of room for growth.  I do too, but also in the prevalence of obesity and related chronic disease.

Apr 3 2019

Close the Mexican border? Farewell to avocados!

President Trump’s threat to close the border with Mexico will have a major effect on one beloved food: avocados.

Thanks to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, the impact we can expect is obvious from this one chart:

US production has not changed much since 1990 or so.  If anything, it has dropped in recent years.

Pounds of avocados available per capita have increased from less than one in 1990 to more than seven pounds now.  That’s the pounds available to every man, woman, and baby in the country, less exports, plus imports.

All of the increase comes from imported avocados.

Of imported avocados, more than 89 percent come from Mexico.

Reuters says if the border closes, we run out of avocados in three weeks.

The Washington Post says if the border closes, avocados could be—toast (I’m quoted).

Ouch.

Sep 5 2018

Trump’s NAFTA deal with Mexico: What about Canada?

The basic agreement does not say much about agriculture, but the Trade Representative has produced a separate fact sheet for agriculture.

The White House says:

The agreement specifically addresses agricultural biotechnology to keep up with 21st Century innovations. And we mutually pledge to work together with Mexico to reduce trade-distorting policies, increase transparency, and ensure non-discriminatory treatment in grading of agricultural products.  This is nothing short of a great victory for farmers and ranchers because…Mexico has historically been a great customer and partner.

And then comes the kicker:

We now hope that Canada will see the need to settle all of the outstanding issues between our two nations as well, and restore us to a true North American Free Trade Agreement.

According to Politico,

Trump warned that efforts to revamp the 24-year-old pact could result in two different agreements, and threatened Canada with tariffs on automobiles if Ottawa didn’t agree to negotiate “fairly.”

Mexico’s president must be worried about Canada.  In a phone call with Trump, he said:

It is our wish, Mr. President, that now Canada will also be able to be incorporated in all this.  And I assume that they going to carry out negotiations of the sensitive bilateral issues between Mexico — rather, between Canada and the United States.

According to the New York TimesCanada is scrambling to get in on the deal.  Why?  Three-quarters of its exports go to the U.S., and automobile supply chains are at issue.

Also according to the New York Times, Congress calmed things down a bit and the White House is giving Canada more time to figure out how to handle all this.

According to Vox, here’s how that happened.

Trump argues that NAFTA has been bad for the United States.  That is unlikely.  It’s been much worse for Mexico (see, for example, Alyshia Gálvez’s Eating NAFTA: Trade, Food Policies, and the Destruction of Mexico, out next month).

Thanks to The Hagstrom Report for providing these documents:

Nov 1 2017

It’s NAFTA again: an update

I haven’t said anything about NAFTA since August, but events are moving so quickly in the Trump administration’s attempts to undo this trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that I’m having a hard time keeping up (Politico Morning Agriculture helps).

Also fortunately for anyone interested in this issue, the Haynes and Boone law firm has created the “NAFTA Renegotiation Monitor.”  This tracks the countries’ positions on more than 30 issues under debate. I’m particularly interested in agricultural and phytosanitary (translation: food safety) issues, but this is a great place to find out about any any of them.  This Monitor makes clear what is at stake:

According to Politico,

Trump has vowed to withdraw from the 23-year-old agreement altogether. That would usher in the new isolationist era that he has long threatened, potentially endangering tens of thousands of American jobs that depend on cross-border agreements for everything from manufacturing automobiles to the export of beef… officials made clear they were at an impasse on a number of changes specifically sought by the Trump administration that dovetail with its “America First” agenda. As a result, Canada, Mexico and the United States have agreed to delay their next round of talks by nearly a month 

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and similar groups in Mexico and Canada issued a joint statement calling on their governments to make sure that whatever gets done to NAFTA does not hurt agriculture.

Politico reports that 86 food and agricultural industry groups say that if the Trump administration really does ask Congress to withdraw from NAFTA to pressure Canada and Mexico into meeting U.S. demands (as it has threatened to do, then it risks causing substantial harm to the U.S. economy: “Contracts would be canceled, sales would be lost, able competitors would rush to seize our export markets, and litigation would abound, even before withdrawal would take effect.”

Furthermore, a NAFTA withdrawal would affect specific agriculture sectors.  These effects are outlined in a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross signed by numerous agriculture organizations.

  • Poultry: In 2016, U.S. poultry exports were 7.95 billion pounds, over 16 percent of total production. Canada was the second-largest market for the chicken industry and in the top five for turkey. Almost 70 percent of U.S. exports of turkey go to Mexico.
  • High-fructose corn syrup: U.S. exports to Mexico would decrease by $500 million per year.
  • Fruits and veggies: Canada and Mexico account for 18 percent of U.S. fresh fruit exports and 60 percent of U.S. fresh vegetable exports. Since 1993, fruit and vegetable exports from the U.S. to Mexico and Canada have more than tripled, totaling $7.2 billion.
  • Beef: In 2016, U.S. beef exports to Mexico and Canada exceeded $1.7 billion and accounted for 27 percent of total U.S. beef exports.
  • Dairy: Over $1 billion a year in U.S. dairy products are shipped to Mexico.

In other words, food and agriculture groups view NAFTA as good for US agriculture.  They do not view it as so broken that it needs fixing.