Chile takes on obesity with online campaign


SANTIAGO – The Chilean government yesterday launched a campaign to reduce obesity, which affects 34 percent of the South American country’s population over 15 years old, the Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement.

“We have to develop people’s awareness to reduce the diseases caused by overweight and malnutrition, which is why we are here, making a call and promoting the consumption of fruits and vegetables,” said Agriculture Minister Antonio Walker.

The government will take measures to combat obesity which is now one of the country’s major health concerns, according to the statement.

The minister was joined by several authorities for World Food Day, which is celebrated every year around the world on Oct. 16, to promote healthy diet following the “worrying” figures released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

According to FAO, Chile has the second highest rates of obesity among countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the number of obese population aged over 15 grew by 9.3 percent between 2016 and 2017. The US, with 40% of its adult population with obesity, leads the ranking.

In 2016, Chile ranked the eighth among the OECD countries, with 25.1 percent of obese adults of the population, and the number reached 34 percent in 2018.

In the case of children under 5, FAO indicates that Chile has one of the highest rates of child overweight in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 9.3%.

According to FAO, Chile does not comply with the minimum recommendations for the consumption of water, fruits, vegetables, dairy products and fish.

“We are facing a critical nutritional situation, overweight and obesity are deteriorating the well-being of the Chilean population and increasing the risk of noncommunicable diseases, such as heart attacks, diabetes and certain types of cancer,” said Eve Crowley, FAO representative in Chile.

“The causes of this phenomenon are multiple, but it is mainly associated with poor eating habits, excessive consumption of ultra-processed products and poor physical activity,” explained Crowley.

To counteract these indicators, Chile launched a strict food labeling law, which, among other measures, forced the modification of the famous McDonald’s Happy Box and the withdrawal of the Kinder Surprise from the display cabinets.

The initiative, considered one of the most restrictive at the global level, forces manufacturers to put stamps on labels that warn consumers about unhealthy foods and restrict their advertising.

Hunger increases and affects 39 million people in Latin America

The latest FAO report also states that hunger has increased in the last three years in the world. In the case of Chile, the prevalence of undernourishment, that is, proportion of the population that does not meet the minimum daily energy requirements for a healthy and active life, reaches 3.3%, which is equivalent to 700,000 people.

“We must not forget that there are still pockets of serious food insecurity in the country, so we must fight the double burden of malnutrition,” concluded the FAO representative.