|There's no escaping: Selling junk food on La Septima.|
But they all lack a key ingredient: Evidence.
Yet, the opposite is true of one deadly conspiracy staring us in the face: Big sugar.
It's bad when millions of people get addicted to a substance which can wreck their health. It's even
|Junk food and sedentarianism |
mean more obesity.
Sugar's been in the news recently: A recent study found that more than half of Colombians are either overweight or obese - a result of consuming more and more sugary and other junk foods, as well as an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. And research increasingly points to it causing illnesses including diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.
The sugar epidemic cuts short countless lives every year. But even tho sugar harms many more people than do heroin, cocaine or even alcohol, it's advertised constantly and the government does almost nothing about that. Why is that?
Perhaps that's because Big Sugar has so much economic and political power.
|Soft drink ads outside a |
store in Bogotá.
|Soft drink workers protest a proposed tax.|
|A lonely sight: An anti-sugar billboard.|
Educar's director was also hit with criminal charges for a humorous blog post about sugar, and the
organization's staff reported harrasment, including computer and cellphone problems they suspected were caused by spyware. None of the problems were proven to be linked to the sugary food makers, who deny any wrongdoing.
But what Big Sugar unquestionably did do was flood Colombia's Congress with nearly 100 lobbyists to fight against a proposed sugar tax, an unprecedented political onslaught.
Meanwhile, reports Semana magazine, another NGO, Red Papaz, created a series of ads criticizing
|Obesity in Colombian children |
has increased in recent years,
and children get fatter
as they get older.
"The private stations won't show our commercial," the director of Red Papaz said. "We understand that this is obviously due to industry interests."
The sugar industry doesn't lack influence in media or government. The same conglomerate which owns Postobón also owns RCN Television and radio, and an industry lawyer once headed the nation's consumer protection agency.
Despite its huge size and influence, the sugar industry tries to make us believe that it's the defender of the little guy, such as the corner shopkeeper, who makes part of his income by selling candy, sugary drinks and other vices, such as cigarettes. However, it's a deceptive argument. If Colombians were persuaded to stop paying money to sicken themselves, they'd still spend that money - but maybe on better things, such as clothing, soccer balls and schoolbooks, not to mention fruits and vegetables.
My advice to Big Sugar is not to worry. Fast foods and junk foods and their advertising are so prevalent that we can't escape. And Red Papaz's campaign is sadly insignificant and poorly designed.
I happened to spot a Red Papaz ad link on The New York Times' website. How many Colombians,
|Big cola, big calories.|
With saturation advertising like that, health education doesn't stand a chance.
The New York Times just published a big report about the North America Free Trade Agreement's destructive inflluence on Mexicans' health. Prominent in that is the Oxxo junk food store chain, a leading purveyor of sugary, salty and highly processed foods (not to mention alcohol) in Mexico, and which is proliferating fast in Colombia. There are already about a half-dozen Oxxos just in La Candelaria.
Afterthought: All of this is actually an argument in favor of prohibitionism. Prohibitionism hasn't stopped the consumption of drugs, sex or alcohol - but it does at least clamp down on the advertising of such 'vices.'
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours