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"COKE: THE NEW NIKE," by Michael Blanding

The Nation
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Issue: May 9, 2005 (Web)
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico

It is well documented by the World Health Organization and others that excessive consumption of junk food and soft drinks contribute to obesity and ill health around the world. Here in Mexico, multinational junk food companies are also contributing to childhood malnutrition.

Mexico has the largest per capita consumption of soft drinks in the world. Upwards of 40 percent of children in Mexico experience malnutrition, with even higher rates for indigenous people in southern Mexico. Coca-Cola--which has won the lion's share of the soft drink market in Mexico--appears to be a major contributor to this problem.

Last month, as part of a continuing education course in a government clinic in San Miguel de Allende, I witnessed an overwhelming number of malnourished infants and children. According to the staff of the clinic, most of these children are not malnourished simply because of poverty.

They are malnourished because poor and often poorly educated parents are choosing to feed their children soft drinks, especially Coca-Cola, and junk food instead of healthier and more affordable traditional foods. The marketing and distribution practices of Coca-Cola directly contribute to the ill health and sometimes the death of infants and young children here in Guanajuato and throughout Mexico.

MARIE MULLIGAN, M.D.

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