We express our deepest concern regarding the proposal to reduce the Special Tax on Products and Services (IEPS) by 50% on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) with a content of 5 g or less of added sugars for every 100 ml.
The sugar-sweetened beverage excise tax, which is part of the National Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Overweight, Obesity and Diabetes, is a public health policy measure designed by the Executive branch to improve the health of the Mexican population.
The implementation of this tax in Mexico as a measure to prevent obesity and diabetes has positioned our country internationally as a leader in public health.
SSB consumption is associated with an increased risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dental caries and other diseases. In addition, it is a main cause of premature death of thousands of Mexicans every year.
There is no scientific evidence that justifies a reduction of the special tax. Quite the opposite, the tax on SSB has led to healthy actions. During the first year of its implementation, the sales of taxed beverages dropped by 6% and sales of water and non-taxed beverages increased by 4%.
Due to the positive effects on health from this measure, the recommendation is to increase the tax, rather than reduce it. The proposal to reduce this special tax (called a IEPS in Spanish) would reverse the progress made on decreasing the consumption of added sugars. Also, it would send a confusing message to the population, since the consumption of 5 g of sugar for every 100 ml is still not a recommended amount. For example, a single 600 ml soft drink with 5 g of sugar per 100 ml contains a total of 30 g of sugar, a quantity that exceeds the maximum daily intake of added sugar established by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a healthcare recommendation (25 g for adults with an energy intake of 2000 kcal). This is the reason why 5 g of sugar per 100 ml is not an acceptable limit.
Moreover, it is alarming that a great number of the beverages with a content of 5 g or less of sugar per 100 ml are targeted to small children, an age group for which these amounts exceed the World Health Organization recommendation (for preschool aged children the upper limit is 16 g of sugar). The reduction of the tax would reverse the decrease in consumption of these products, especially among children. This situation would create heath inequity and would represent an increased risk for childhood obesity. Also it would promote the habituation of children to sweet flavors and would increase the probability of becoming consumers of SSB thoroughout their lifetime with the repercussion of harms to their health and the risk of premature death.
The proposed policy measure is not based on scientific evidence and it is unacceptable considering the high prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and the fact that Mexico is one of the countries with the world’s highest consumption of soft drinks per capita.
Hence, and in support of the actions of the National Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Overweight, Obesity and Diabetes, we hereby make the following public health recommendations:
- Not reducing the special tax to 50% on sugar-sweetened beverages with a content of 5 g of less of added sugar for every 100 ml, because it would have negative effects on the population`s health and since the limit established is unacceptable, especially for children and since it would cause an intake of added sugar that exceeds the maximum accepted level established by the WHO.
- A special tax of two Mexican pesos per liter on sugar-sweetened beverages would have a positive effect on public health by discouraging their consumption even more.
- To allocate at least five percentage points of the funds raised by the tax on SSB to actions for preventing obesity and diabetes considered in the strategy of the Ministry of Health in 2016, and a gradual increasing percentage in upcoming years would have positive effects on public health, additional to the effects resulting from the reduction in consumption of beverages with added sugars.