Coca-Cola under fire in Mexico

Groups aided by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attack the drink's popularity as the nation's obesity rate rises.

By Jason Notte Aug 30, 2013 10:24AM
© 2013 The Coca-Cola Company
Special edition Coca-Cola bottles made of iceIn the U.S., Mexican-made glass bottles of Coca-Cola (KO) have become the soft drink world's version of a delicacy -- a throwback to when the drink was made with cane sugar instead of the high-fructose corn syrup that was added to the U.S. version after the New Coke debacle of the late '80s.

With Mexico now sitting atop the United Nations' list of the world's most obese nations, that sugary staple is now under fire. Not surprisingly, New York Mayor and soda-ban proponent Michael Bloomberg is involved.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, this summer, a series of ads posted on buses, billboards and along subway platforms in Mexico City showed 12 heaping spoonfuls of sugar next to a roughly 20-ounce bottle of soda. The ads asked: "Would you eat 12 spoonfuls of sugar? Why do you drink soda?" El Poder del Consumidor, a public-interest group that financed the campaign, draws contributions from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the umbrella organization for Mayor Bloomberg's charitable activities.

With that in mind, the campaign isn't exactly an overreaction. Mexico recently passed the U.S. as the most obese nation with a population of 100 million or more. Seven out of 10 Mexican adults over the age of 20 are either overweight or obese, according to the country's latest national health survey. An estimated 10 million Mexicans have diabetes, or roughly 9% of the population, the highest proportion in any country with more than 100 million inhabitants. Diabetes is now Mexico's second-biggest killer after heart disease, up from ninth place in 1980.

Meanwhile, Mexico is second only to the U.S. in per-capita soda intake, according to Euromonitor International. Whether Mexico's soda consumption correlates to its obesity and diabetes or caused it depends largely on which side of the debate you're on.

"In the Mexican countryside, if you go to somebody's house and they don't have Coke to offer, they apologize. Coca-Cola symbolizes prestige," says Alejandro Calvillo, director of El Poder del Consumidor.

Both Mexico's soda bottlers and sugar cane growers, who get 20% of their business from soda companies, insist it's unfair to single out soda when there may be other contributing factors.

Though proponents say measures that would pull soda out of schools, fine Coca-Cola for misleading ads and tax soda products 20% would slash soda consumption by 26% while bringing in close to $2 billion a year in revenue, opponents note that soda is already taxed (to the tune of $1.5 billion a year) and is the only drink readily available in areas that lack clean drinking water.

This isn't a fight that Coca-Cola is about to give up willingly. Its products are increasingly under fire around the globe, with the World Health Organization's Global Conference on Health Promotion in Helsinki, Finland, targeting soda as a health risk. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola's soda sales in North America were down 4% last quarter and have declined in four of the last five quarters. Coca-Cola blamed the rain for its recent woes, but the raindrops it's hearing are more likely much of the world dumping its precious fizzy brown product down the drain in favor of less-fatty options.

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Aug 30, 2013 11:57AM
Bloomberg is spending $350,000 here in Colorado to stop a recall election against two Democrats who voted for gun restrictions.  He's trying to control everybody and everything.  He should mind his own business. 
Aug 30, 2013 11:17AM
I guess mexico is learning from america and blaming everything on business as to the reason, they are fat.

self reliance and personal choices don't make you any money.  Its always someone else fault

Aug 30, 2013 1:31PM
You have got to be kidding. STOP the drugs coming across the Mexican border to the USA.  That is what is important.
Aug 30, 2013 1:47PM

What the hell is Bloomberg doing messing around  with what these people drink in Mexico?  its bad enough what he tried to do in NYC!  He sounds like a control freak to me.


But now that the pressure is off here and the USA is no longer the most obese nation, I guess I'll celebrate with a burger and fries and a coke.  Ha, ha!

Aug 30, 2013 2:03PM

Stop balming everyone and start blaming yourself!!

Everyone is responsible for there own actions.

Aug 30, 2013 2:44PM
Keep the government out of my mouth, my bedroom, my personal spiritual beliefs and my medical beliefs.
Aug 30, 2013 2:24PM
Coke is not the problem. It's the Mexican cuisine that fattens people up.  Beans, rice, meat, breads, tacos, flautas, enchilidas .... heck , you can get fat just naming the foods. And yes, we musn't forget the ever so delicious homemade tortillas, especially the flour tortillas. It's a good thing they have coke to digest these foods otherwise, they'd be abusing the antacid industry!  I am hispanic and do not know how to cook the real Mexican way but what I do cook doesn't help my weight any. So get off Coke's back and start accepting that "you are what you eat!"!
Aug 30, 2013 2:12PM
Now that I know Mexican coke doesn't contain corn fructose, I'll buy!!!!!! Thank you for the real informative information.
Aug 30, 2013 2:42PM

The Mexican Coca Cola taste like the old coke we used to get here.  We've stocked up on them; their grrreat!!

Aug 30, 2013 10:45AM
Not sure which is more un-American - tie games in soccer or Michael Bloomberg and his war on soda.
Bloomberg you need to mind your own business 
Aug 30, 2013 2:40PM
Bloomberg is an idiot,  and probably the next presidential candidate. 
Aug 30, 2013 1:50PM
How did people in New York ever elect this twerp? Oh yeah they are the people that pay 1.5 million for a 1.500 ft concrete box on the 20th floor, just because it has a view of the only woods for 20 miles .Let's see how luxurious they are when the next hurricane comes in and power is out for days. Can you say 20 floor walkup?
Aug 30, 2013 2:44PM
if anything , after hearing Bloomberg is involved , I'd want to drink more !
Aug 30, 2013 2:44PM
King Bloomberg is completely out of control. Maybe he's being prepped for King of the World when the NWO is fully implemented.
Aug 30, 2013 3:07PM
The glass bottled Coke from Mexico is AMAZING.  I swing by my local little Mexican store once a month to pick up some.  But I also eat well and exercise and I'm not would someone please tell Bloomberg to STFU because we all have personal choices to make and if ppl do things that they know will make them fat...then so be it!  This idiot can't control the world, although that is his ultimate goal.
Aug 30, 2013 2:39PM
How about personal responsibility? Who in the heck doesn't know soda contains a lot of sugar? They are just finding out about this? I highly doubt that. I'm not a soda person at all, every once in awhile I'll have a pepsi (sorry Coke) maybe 2 a year if that. God people are stupid....
Mexico eats foods that are high in fat using lard and animal fats, different kinds of meats, beans and tortillas and breads. Then there are a large number of different Mexican pastries and Mexican sodas. But if that isn't enough to get the fat piling up on you, they drink ALOT of beer in Mexico. Alcohol will pile on pounds combined with fattening foods twice over. Coca Cola is not even a chip off the iceberg of the problem in my opinion. But then blaming coca cola in the US for any obesity in Americans would be a laugh as well. Bet the media will stay away from the obesity caused by eating and drinking products that say fat free or light and some that don't but all that have Olestra/Olean in them. Proven to cause huge amts of fat when eaten. Pile up those tater chips with Olestra and pack on the pounds!
Aug 30, 2013 2:48PM
The ad says "Why do we drink soda?" We drink it for the same reason people drink coffee, beer, wine, fruit drinks, milk or tea.  We like it and it's our choice of drink. Doesn't matter what you drink or eat, something is wrong with it.
Aug 30, 2013 5:20PM
Coca Cola, made with sugar, was sold for years in the U.S. and there were no obesity issues. They were sold in the 6 or 12 oz bottles and most people drank only one bottle at a sitting. People in general were more active, not sitting around like today with TVs, sattelite dishes, computers/internet, etc. where one is sedentary and the most energy expended is reaching for the supersized whatever sitting next to them.  It is human behavior causing the issue, not the product.
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