Neoliberal or corporate diet prevails over healthy food choices

Experts warn that the typical corporate diet is centered on ultra-processed meals that are heavy in carbohydrates, salts, and fats.

Neoliberal or corporate diet prevails over healthy food choices
Poor nutrition is prioritized by the neoliberal or corporate diet. Photo by Fernando Andrade / Unsplash

To access healthier diets that encourage the direct consumption of fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, promote local crops of the Mexican countryside, support cooperatives, and combat the inequality of small producers against transnational corporations, the State must change its public policies on food.

In a hybrid event put on by this academic institution and the University Coordination for Sustainability (COUS), subject experts met at the Institute of Geography (IGg) of the UNAM and came to the same conclusion as stated above.

Through the conversation "Mexico's neoliberal diet and obesity. Sociologist Gerardo Otero, professor-researcher at Simon Fraser University in Canada, spoke on "The role of public policies in the transformation of food environments" and explained that the so-called neoliberal or corporate diet is one of the primary symbols of modern life, including junk food.

Large multinational corporations that produce ultra-processed meals high in sugars, salt, and fats produce it. It also contains additives like sweeteners, colorings, flavorings, preservatives, thickeners, and other things, some of which are made from petroleum.

"When we talk about a business or corporate regime, we are pointing out which are the dominant economic agents, but not the people who could change things, which is the State. By calling it neoliberal it is understood that it is a set of public policies and that, if these are the ones that have led us to the type of diet we have been following since the 1980s, it means that the policy could be modified in such a way that we have access to healthier diets," Otero added.

In a 2012 report, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that 850 million people, or 870 million people worldwide, experience food insecurity. He emphasized that even in a society where there is enough food produced, not everyone has access to enough healthy food because of the unequal economic distribution.

The Problem of Food Security

The general director of the National Center for Preventive Programs and Disease Control, Ruy López Ridaura, said that the country's food environments have changed for the worse. "There is degradation and access to healthy food options is increasingly difficult."

"In this administration, we have prioritized policies that are going to modify the contexts in food environments. A problem is generated when the State withdraws and lets the ups and downs of the market define these food problems; it is the deep conflict of interest that is generated with the industries, which allows them to influence State policies", he clarified.

Claudia María Mesa Dávila, from the Teaching Area of the Public Health Services of Mexico City, considered that in this food culture, schools are decisive to implement a new healthy diet. She also referred to the high prevalence of obesity and cardiovascular diseases among the national population.

"We continue with this anthropocentric, individualistic, and materialistic vision of not caring for the environment, and the sale of ultra-processed foods that are also packaged and stored in a series of materials that are not biodegradable at all," she warned.

The Public Policy of Mexico in Health and Nutrition

Simón Barquera Cervera, director of the Center for Nutrition and Health Research of the National Institute of Public Health, stressed that in this matter it is important to focus on the person and on public policies that favor health.

"That person-centered vision must have a profound clarity of what its social determinants are. If one does not have clarity on what is causing in Mexico this epidemic, one can at the individual level make wrong recommendations of what is causing these problems." The correct approach is the one that allows the individual to have the conditions to achieve a healthy life, he said.

The specialists were in favor of promoting, in schools and universities, a new healthy lifestyle that prioritizes food from the countryside, peasant work, and cooperatives, and that fresh products be sold in school stores instead of junk food. They also supported policies such as food labeling, which directly informs consumers about the excess of some ingredients.