Mexico moves to scale back successful tax on sugary drinks

Soft drinks are ubiquitous in Mexicans' diet, from streetside taco vendors to upscale restaurants. Health officials say this has contributed to the obesity epidemic in the country, where more than 70 percent of adults are overweight. Credit Rodrigo Cruz for The New York Times
Soft drinks are ubiquitous in Mexicans’ diet, from streetside taco vendors to upscale restaurants. (Rodrigo Cruz/The New York Times)

By Elisabeth Malkin / New York Times

Soft drinks are so deeply embedded in the diet here that they have become part of the dining tradition, from the taco stand to the white- linen restaurant. Whether lunch consists of corn tortillas and beans, or meat in sauces infused with cacao and fragrant spices of Aztec origin, it usually goes with something fizzy.

And sugary.

The seemingly unquenchable thirst for soda in Mexico has made the soft drinks industry economically and politically powerful; a former president, Vicente Fox, rose to prominence as a Coca-Cola executive.

But that thirst has also contributed to an obesity epidemic. Looking for a way to attack the problem two years ago, the Mexican government consulted public health experts and imposed a national tax of about 10 percent on sugary drinks.

Now, just as the evidence suggests that the tax is beginning to work, a proposal to lower it has popped up in Congress.

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