Oaxaca, a city in southern Mexico, is taking care to keep junk food out of the hands of children, something that is designed to curb the rise of childhood obesity. The move reminds us of an effort by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who tried to put a "sin tax" on the sale of jumbo sugary drinks, but was blocked by the "don't mess with my food" attitude of New Yorkers. The Mexican state legislature in Oaxaca succeeded in passing the bill that would prevent vendors from selling high-calorie food to children under 18, without the approval of a parent or guardian. 

Bill Targets Mexico's Rising Childhood Obesity Rates

This new bill comes after Mexico has taken other measures to combat the country’s ballooning rate of childhood obesity, which has focused on better labeling of the nutritional content of packaged foods. A recent report by the UN identifies ultra-processed food as the culprit largely responsible for Mexico’s skyrocketing childhood obesity rates, stating: "One-third of Mexican children and adolescents are overweight or obese. This is by no means a coincidence, as Mexico is the largest consumer of ultra-processed products, including sugary drinks, in Latin America. The highest rates of consumption are among preschoolers who receive about 40 percent of their calories from these products.” 

All of these actions strive to help parents and caregivers make more informed choices when feeding their children processed foods. There is mounting concern about Mexico’s high rate of childhood obesity given the high death rate of obese middle-aged adults Mexico has seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the bill's intent to improve the health of Mexico’s citizens, it has been met with some criticism: The National Association of Small Store Owners cited concern that the legislation will have a negative impact on small business owners, who have already suffered from the economic impact of COVID-19.

One of the bill’s sponsors, State Rep. Magaly López Domínguez, reiterated the continued importance of parent’s roles in making nutritional decisions in an interview with the MVS radio station, reminding vendors that “parents will have the freedom to choose. It will be they who decide what products they buy for their children to consume.”