Wed. Feb 26th, 2020

Colombian parents rebel against "junk food"

Colombian parents have rebelled against the consumption of prefabricated food in schools to raise awareness about the effects of "junk food" in a country where childhood obesity grows and thus get them to replace those products with healthier ones.

A child victim of this poor diet is Anderson, who at age seven weighs 45 kilograms. At home "dad pleases him with chocolate popsicles" that attract him for the toys they come with, explains his mother, Luz Mary Rincon, who strives to prepare nutritious meals daily.

According to the latest National Survey of Nutrition Situation of Colombia (ENSIN), of 2015, undernourishment, overweight and obesity are problems that are increasing in the country's child population: 10.8% of children are late in height, 1.6% suffer from acute malnutrition and 6.4% are overweight.


Against this, Red PaPaz, a non-profit corporation founded in 2003 that advocates for the protection of the rights of minors, launched the "Don't Eat More Lies" campaign.

The executive director of Rep PaPaz, Carolina Piñeros Ospina, explains to Efe that it seeks to raise awareness about the inconvenience of consuming "ultraprocessed" products known as "junk food" or "junk food."

"They are edible products, they are not food … they take away hunger but do not nourish," says Piñeros.


In supermarkets, advertising hooks for children like Anderson abound. It is propaganda where "a pediatrician" recommends infant formula milk with added sugar, products that give away toys or characters that promise them that they will grow stronger or faster.

Since August 2017 Red PaPaz has collected more than 120,000 citizen signatures to demand a law on "junk food" that warns with black seals of products with excess saturated fat, sugars and sodium whose usual consumption "is harmful to health" .

These products are hidden behind labels that present them as "food with natural pear fruit", "low-fat mayonnaise", "fortified chocolate milk", "natural flavor potatoes" or "juice with orange juice", among others.

"People should know that they are victims of a hoax, it is not in vain that the Colombian population thinks that box juices are really (natural) juices," says Piñeros.


To combat products that "do not provide the necessary nutrients in the growth stage", Red PaPaz proposes "to remove advertising (…) directed to children and put the warning stamps", as well as "healthy taxes" to discourage the consumption among the most vulnerable population.

In December 2017 Red PaPaz filed two complaints with the National Institute for Food and Drug Surveillance (INVIMA) and the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (SIC) for two cash juices that have excess sugar and misleading advertising, but so far nothing has happened.

Nor have attempts to approve in Congress the "Do not Eat More Lies" bill, which has collided with the business lobby.

"It is the responsibility of companies to worry about the long-term health of the population," especially children, exposed "to be the patients of tomorrow, very complicated and expensive for the health system," he says.


The consumption of ultraprocessed products puts at risk the health of children like Anderson who are vulnerable to "chronic noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer," says nutritionist Jhon Jairo Bejarano, professor at Department of Human Nutrition of the National University.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) annually seven out of ten deaths in the world are caused by a noncommunicable disease.

Bejarano details that "refreshments and some public entity feeding programs have not been reformulated according to the international recommendations of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)," something notorious in school stores.

"It is urgent to formulate a plan of food and nutrition education, this implies having many education groups to reach, of which the most important is the consumer," adds Bejarano.


The Colegio San Jorge de Inglaterra in Bogotá educates its students among organic gardens that produce 70% of the vegetables they consume daily.

The school nutritionist, Mónica Cortés, comments that Red PaPaz "works together with schools doing nutritional talks" and that they have invited several institutions to learn about this healthy model.

According to Cortés, self-supply or produce products in schools is cheaper than buying them and those who do not "lose the possibility of having a dynamic and nutritious diet for their students."

Daniela Arias Baquero

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