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Mexican Lawmakers Ban Junk Food in Schools, Require Physical Education

MEXICO CITY – The lower house of Congress approved two reform measures banning the sale of junk food in schools and making physical education classes mandatory in Mexico, where 30 percent of children are obese.

A majority of lawmakers voted during a regular session Tuesday to approve the changes, acknowledging that childhood obesity tripled in Mexico in the past 20 years and federal and state officials must take action to deal with the situation.

Schools will be required to provide 30 minutes of physical education time every day to help students lose weight.

Some 70 percent of adults in Mexico, according to official figures, are overweight, while 70 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 11, or some 4.5 million minors, are overweight.

Some 40 percent of Mexicans, according to the 2006 National Health Survey, are obese.

The percentage of Mexico’s population classified as overweight or obese has tripled since 1980.

“Childhood obesity has become a social problem and a serious health problem,” lawmakers said.

Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said last week that the government planned to focus on reducing the number of people, especially minors, who are overweight or obese over the next two years.

“The Mexican government’s goal is to reduce the overweight rate among children ages 2 to 5 by 2012 and to slow the growth (of cases) among those 5 to 19, as well as to decelerate the increase in cases in adults,” Cordova said during the presentation on April 6 of a new report on obesity.

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President Felipe Calderon said on Jan. 25 that Mexico was the country with the largest number of overweight adults, overtaking the United States, and also had the largest number of obese children.

Officials are weighing a number of measures to fight obesity, including taxing soft drinks, Cordova said.

Mexico has the world’s second-highest soft drink consumption per capita, trailing only the United States.

A number of countries have imposed taxes on soft drinks in an effort to fight obesity. EFE


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