Imported obesity and food safety

Imported obesity and food safety

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By David Márquez Ayala

Obesity, warns the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), is becoming in many countries "public enemy number one in terms of health", and according to the (World Health Organization) (WHO) the Overweight and obesity reach epidemic proportions not only in advanced countries but also in many underdeveloped countries, affecting men and women, infants and the elderly, rich and poor alike and with increasing intensity.

According to WHO figures, the highest percentages of obesity (more than 60% of the population aged 15 years or older) are currently registered in small island countries of the South Pacific (Nauru, Cook Islands, Micronesia, Tonga), and of the larger countries, in the United States, where 44.2% of men aged 15 years and over and 48.3% of women qualify as obese (Graph 1), and 80.5 and 76.7 respectively as overweight.

It should be remembered that the Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to measure overweight and obesity, which is obtained by dividing a person's weight by their height squared (x2). If the result is less than 25, the weight is considered normal, if it is greater than 25 there is overweight, and if it is greater than 30 kg / m2 it is considered obesity.

In Mexico, after centuries of existence, it was until about 20 years ago that obesity appears as a health problem; it was generally associated with rare glandular dysfunctions. Overnight, however, we are surprised that 73.6% of men and 73.0 of women aged 15 and over are overweight, and of these 30.1% of men and 41.0 of women qualify as obese; also that one in three children and young people of both sexes between the ages of five and 17 is overweight.

For the Ministry of Health, obesity "is the result of an imbalance between ingestion and energy expenditure", that is, of an ingestion of diets with high energy density and low in fiber, and of sugary drinks, in combination with a little physical activity.

We do not detract from these causes - poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle - but we consider that the core of the problem lies elsewhere.

It seems wrong, moreover, to disqualify many popular foods from various cultures: from hamburgers and tapas, to cakes and sushis, which are magnificent foods if their ingredients are the right ones.

Sweets, cakes, potatoes, fried foods, soft drinks and the like are not the enemy either if they are consumed moderately as they are: sweets, snacks or drinks of occasion; bad when they are mistaken for food, substituted for it, or its ingredients are harmful.

Our hypothesis

Analyzing the origin and development of obesity as a public health problem, it is inevitable to see its parallelism with technological changes in food production and industrialization. The United States is a pioneer in these areas and has also been the advanced country with the highest rates of obesity for many decades.

We consider that this serious health problem, obesity, is essentially the result of the misuse of science and technology, irresponsibly applied to the increase in agricultural production, poorly focused productivity and maximization of profits, criteria that govern with growing permissiveness and lack of ethics the global food cycle imposed by corporations.

It is not possible to assume that altering or violating natural processes in agriculture with the unrestricted use of toxic chemicals or worse still, with genetic manipulation, would not bring consequences for those who consume the food thus produced; nor could it be expected that cattle and poultry artificially fattened with hormones and other chemicals, or with transgenic grains, would have no subsequent effects on humans.

It is a fact that the global food, chemical and pharmaceutical monopolies acting without effective controls, as is the case, are on the way to creating a universal hecatomb.

Obesity in Mexico is, according to this reasoning, a recent import problem via the food that we increasingly acquire abroad, and especially from the United States, and it is also a problem of internal official negligence in the face of large producers of agricultural inputs. and food, which use the same methods and substances in our country as in the United States.

The abandonment in the 80s of the previous century of the principle of food self-sufficiency and commercial openness have made us increasingly dependent on imported food and with it on its alterations, vices and harmfulness. In 2009, 27.4% of the corn consumed in Mexico was imported, 39.9 from wheat, 96.6 from soybeans, 14.5 from beans, 77.9 from rice and 30.2% from safflower; and in forages, 29.1% of sorghum (Graph 2).

In beef we were practically self-sufficient in 1980 and in 2010 we imported 14.6% of consumption; of pork we imported 2.4% and now 44.0; and of poultry, we went from self-sufficiency in 1980 to importing 15.1 of the consumption this year (Graph 3).

In milk, in 1980 we imported 2.6% of consumption and now 14.5%. Eggs are practically the only basic product in which we continue to be self-sufficient (Graph 4).

What to do?

Our country is still on time and in the possibility of turning around its food and public health strategy. We could:

1) Resume the criterion of self-sufficiency in basic foods and apply a comprehensive policy for the field in terms of productivity, irrigation infrastructure (and water sanitation), purification of inputs, guarantee of purchase at remunerative prices, and support for processing. The State must guarantee the above by participating directly if necessary.

2) Accordingly, reduce food imports and those that must be carried out in transit that are exclusively from suppliers that guarantee clean products (from toxins, alterants and harmful substances), and of course not transgenic (which also "sterilize" crops and they force those who possess the technology to buy the seeds). A reliable body like UNAM or similar could supervise the sanitation process.

3) Absolute prohibition of transgenic crops throughout the country (although promoting own research for the future), and the establishment of standards for clean food (not necessarily organic, as it is unrealistic). This would also place our products in a privileged position to export in the future to countries hungry for healthy food, and

4) Review of the entire agro-industrial structure of the country to ensure an equally clean processing of food.

David Marquez Ayala - Technical Unit of Economía S.A. de C.V. • Mexico City - Economic Report - The day - Mexico

Video: Rapid Screening of Pharmaceutical Imports in the United States (June 2022).


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