The “Costa Rica Saludable” (Healthy Costa Rica) Association urges the Costa Rican Ministry of Health to act under principles consistent with public health policies, following the launch of an alliance between the institution and the Coca-Cola Company.
The project they are working on is based on a communication campaign to urge Costa Ricans to continue with the application of health protocols that prevent the spread of Covid-19. Daniel Salas, Minister of Health, thanked Coca-Cola in a press release sent to the industry, assuring that this type of joint effort “allows the message of prevention and self-care to be replicated.”
However, for Dr. María Marta Ortiz from Costa Rica Saludable, at this time of Pandemic not only is the Ministry of Health expected to guarantee timely and quality access to health services, but also to fulfill its leading role in the field of nutrition, under the same values and principles of the institution.
In addition, the association asks the portfolio to be consistent with public policies on health and nutrition, based on the fact that non-communicable diseases such as obesity and diabetes are risk factors for the severity and mortality of Covid-19.
The Pandemic as a growth opportunity for the food and beverage industry
A study published by the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) indicates that despite the evident need of many countries to adopt healthy diets, the Pandemic created an opportunity for the ultra-processed food and beverage industry to grow in low- and middle-income nations.
“During the crisis, multinationals like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Nestlé, among others, quickly promoted unhealthy, ultra-processed foods and sugary drinks. These companies participated in multiple marketing strategies during the Covid-19 Pandemic, appealing to feelings such as homesickness and comfort when people around the world self-quarantine at home,” the report says.
For Ortiz, campaigns such as the one promoted in Costa Rica are known as smoke screens that cover up the negative health effects caused by the consumption of the products of large corporations. She assures that these types of companies are partly responsible for overweight and obesity along with diabetes, causing more complex and even fatal conditions of Covid-19, the main risk factors along with hypertension.
“Food and beverage companies are taking advantage of the Pandemic to strengthen their brands, improve their image, partner with decision makers to gain political influence and position themselves as public health allies during this crisis. They hope to be part of the solution to the Pandemic, while increasing their profits, hindering the advancement of public health policies, ”emphasized the representative of Costa Rica Saludable.
Likewise, Ortiz emphasized that it is urgent to strengthen health policies to generate a healthy eating environment and to be able to regulate conflicts of interest.