Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mexican Government Fights Obesity

Many countries are witnessing swelling populations of obese citizens and their health authorities have sounded the alarm. Last week, the Mexican government introduced an eight percent tax on junk food and a levy on sugary drinks to try to combat the country’s ballooning obesity epidemic. 

Nobody kicked a big fuss about it at least I don't remember reading anything about it. Mercifully, Mexico is spared from inane jokes about sex drives and/or amputations. The reason is simple. There's no Najib nor Muhyiddin in that country!

It has been reported that more than two-thirds of the population are now overweight, and Mexicans supposedly consume more soft drinks per capita than any other nation on Earth, including the US of A. 

Of course, Coca-Cola is not happy at all! Coca-Cola Femsa and Arca Continental, both based in Mexico, say the tax could lead to some 20,000 job losses. Coca-Cola controls more than 75 percent of the country’s drinks market, and stocks in both bottling companies have dropped by between five and 10 percent since the law was introduced. 

Why is Coca-Cola making vulgar noises about lay-offs? If prices of raw materials like sugar go up, they would just up the prices in tandem. And they would also seek alternative sweeteners that are cheaper than what they are using now. It will not be the end of the world for Coke, right? 

FYI, the Coca-Cola recipe is the same everywhere. Supposedly. Apparently not! I am told Coca-Cola bottlers use different sweetening ingredients depending on the most readily available alternative in each market. The labeling will normally just say “sugar” although in Argentina, “corn syrup” is mentioned. 

Still, Coca-Cola always insists that every Coke tastes the same, no matter where it was bottled. That's the marketing story anyway.

An interesting trivia about Coke. It was first developed as an alcoholic “coca wine” by wounded US Civil War veteran John Pemberton, as an alternative to morphine. Pemberton created the non-alcoholic Coca-Cola in 1886, after his home state, Georgia, passed prohibition. Its two key ingredients then were cocaine from the coca leaf, and caffeine from the kola nut. 

If you ask me, I don’t understand why sugar is branded the culprit. It’s the same in Malaysia. Actually, lifestyle is the cause. That’s all there is to it – so the way forward is to get people up and about, to exercise and to practice healthy living! 

I was in Level 6, Block 3A in Plaza Sentral for the Allianz Toastmasters meeting today. Sunway University member Kenneth Ho also came along and both of us took up roles – he was the Table Topics Evaluator and I was the Grammarian. I was also the last-minute replacement evaluator for one of the 5 speakers. And next, I took part in Table Topics and I was voted Best Table Topics Speaker. The quality of speeches were really good; likewise the evaluations. My score is a 6 over 10, only because the meeting started six minutes late. Putting aside this slackness, I had a great time because it was enjoyable. 

It was an honor for Allianz Toastmasters when Jens Reisch, the supportive CEO of Allianz Malaysia Berhad graced the meeting and he even stayed for at least 90 minutes. This underscores a genuine interest in the club. In fact, he is an enlightened organizational leader because he sees the benefits Toastmastering brings to Allianz. 


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