Mexico restricts soft drink TV ads to fight obesity

A woman has her Body Mass Index measured in Mexico City on 20 August, 2009. The number of overweight and obese people has doubled in Mexico since 1980, studies suggest

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Mexico is restricting television advertising for high-calorie food and soft drinks, as part of its campaign against obesity, the government says.

Such ads will be banned with immediate effect on terrestrial and cable TV between 14:30 and 19:30 on weekdays and between 07:30 and 19:30 at weekends.

Restrictions will also be imposed on similar ads shown at the cinema.

Seventy percent of adults and 30% of children in Mexico are obese or overweight, official figures suggest.

Graph of overweight and obese by selected countries
Sugar-rich diet

Overall, 40% of commercials for soft drinks, confectionery and chocolates will disappear from TV, in favour of products which "meet nutritional standards", the health ministry is quoted as saying.

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Analysis

By James Gallagher, Health editor, BBC News website

Mexico is going further than any other country in restricting advertising.

The UK, Norway and Quebec province in Canada, all have bans on advertising junk food in children's television.

However, this has not stopped the adverts appearing in more popular "family" programming.

So the fizzy drinks and greasy meals are still there in the programmes which attract the biggest audiences.

Banning junk food at certain times of day means advertisers will not be able to work around the plans.

With this policy and the soda tax, Mexico is becoming a frontline in the war against obesity.

If Mexico can do what no other nation has done and reverse the obesity epidemic, then the rest of the world will be paying attention.

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As an additional measure, from 2015, manufacturers will be made to label the sugar, fat and saturated fat content on their food and drink products.

Mexicans have the highest incidence of diabetes among the 34 member states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

A nurse takes a blood sample to establish the level of cholesterol of a visitor during the World Summit against Obesity in Mexico City on 20 August, 2009 Mexico is keen to tackle the growing incidence of diabetes and high cholesterol in its citizens

They are also the world's heaviest consumers of sugary drinks, at 163 litres per year, and their diet is rich in fried food.

Health experts estimate the nation's weight problems will cost the public health care system $11.7bn (£7bn) by 2017.

Last year, the Mexican government introduced taxes on high-calorie foods and drinks, as part of its obesity prevention strategy.

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