Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mexico to ban junk food from schools to fight fat

Mexico is looking to battle the bulging waistlines of its children by banning the sale of junk food in its schools, including many of the traditional treats generations of kids have grown up with.

Getting the ax along with modern soft drinks and sweets will be salted tamarind candy, pork rinds and atole, the thick and sweet cornstarch-based beverage served piping hot in the morning.

The anti-obesity guidelines presented by health and education officials Wednesday make recommendations that at times seem more suited for a Manhattan salad bar than a Mexican school yard.

Tortas - the often overstuffed, greasy, meat-packed sandwiches popular in Mexico - are out, unless they are "light" versions such as beans, avocado and cheese, or chicken-and-vegetables. Only low-fat tacos, burritos and salads will be allowed.

The Health Department says it hopes to have the rules in place when the next school year starts in August. The rules must still be approved by experts and a review committee. The guidelines would cover all 220,000 public and private primary and middle schools serving 25 million students.

President Felipe Calderon launched a nationwide anti-obesity campaign in January, saying the incidence of obesity among youngsters has tripled in Mexico over the last three decades. "Unfortunately, we are the country with the biggest problem of childhood obesity in the entire world," he said.

About 4.5 million Mexican children between the ages of 5 and 11 are overweight. About 26 percent of all Mexican children are overweight.

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