Mexico is among the countries worst affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. It is third in the list of nations which have suffered most deaths due to COVID-19 infection, United States of America (USA) and Brazil are the two countries ahead of it. Now, the Health Under-Secretary of Mexico has pinned the blame for the high number of deaths, at least partly, on soft drinks.
During a visit to the Southern Chiapas province in July, Hugo López-Gatell claimed that the rampant consumption of Coca Cola – by far the most popular soft drink in the country is chiefly responsible for putting Mexico in the throes of an all-out health crisis.
"Why do we need bottled poison in soft drinks? Health in Mexico would be very different if we stopped being deceived by these lifestyles sold on television and heard on radio and which we see on adverts – as if this was happiness," the undersecretary stated.
He has a point. Mexico does suffer from high rates of obesity. According to a survey, nearly 3/4th of the country's population is overweight. The consumption of soft drinks is also known to be exceptionally high in the South American nation. In fact, Mexico has the highest per-capita consumption of soda in the world. The amount of soda that the average Mexican drinks in a year is a staggering 163 liters.
It is also a fact that conditions like obesity and diabetes, linked to bad diet and too many calories, makes patients more vulnerable to succumbing to the virus. In a country where the reach of Coca Cola is extensive and where, in some areas, soft drinks are sold at rates cheaper than drinking water, there is a case to be made for following a better diet in these times.
However, critics of the present government think the attack of the undersecretary on soft drinks is a way to deflect blame from his own mishandling of the pandemic. Soft drink companies have also responded by making this argument.
One of their spokespersons of the industry said that the comments of the undersecretary "show the need to find a public enemy to hold responsible for the health crisis the country confronts due to the COVID-19 pandemic."
However, the problem of over-consumption of soda-based sugary drinks has been accepted as a serious social issue. One state in the country has already banned such drinks while the federal government has made it mandatory for junk and fast food items to have large labels informing the buyers of the harmful contents in them.
However, there are serious questions to be asked of the federal governments as well. Both the undersecretary of health and the President of the country have not asked the citizens to wear masks in an unambiguous way. Instead, López-Gatell suggested to his constituents that they should go back to a more traditional diet and rediscovering the value of spirituality to deal with the pandemic.