Junk Food in Cuba, the State is the Main Supplier
September 10, 2014
Yenisel Rodríguez Pérez
HAVANA TIMES – Weeks ago, Margaret Chan, the director of the World
Health Organization, visited Cuba. While the official publicly praised
the country’s pharmaceutical industry, she spoke of the need to pay
attention to the issue of a healthy and balanced diet (with the prudence
that such a pronouncement requires, of course).
She reminded the officials present at the meeting that the short-term
profits generated by fast food are eclipsed by the high costs of
treating chronic, non-transmissible conditions associated to their
It is clear the official was well-informed about the high morbidity
rates associated to the country’s poor eating habits.
Despite the relevance and timeliness of the issue addressed by the
director of the WHO, the Cuban media made no reference to her comments
at all, as part of what I consider to be a deliberate omission.
Despite the fact the issue is widely addressed by television programs
dealing with health issues, I don’t recall ever seeing a public debate
on the role that Cuba’s State food industry has played in the
development of poor eating habits among Cubans, particularly in recent
times, when the science of nutrition has made considerable progress.
Today, the menus at Cuba’s State food industry establishments are a
litany of super-greasy processed cold meats, extremely salty minced
meats, snacks fried in saturated oils that are several days old, soft
drinks and rancid sandwiches.
This way, the commercial departments of the State food industry cut back
on production costs and continue to offer a limited range of
high-calorie products that are detrimental to the health of low-income
consumers, which are the main customers of the State food industry.
This reveals a lack of a real political will aimed at designing
healthier options that give consumers a broader range of choices.
There have been attempts by the State food industry to offer the public
healthier options in recent times. Ultimately, however, they have proven
demagogic strategies that have sought to conceal the precarious
condition the sector is in and they perished when they ran into the
habitual setbacks and absurdities of the system. An illustrative example
were the short-lived vegetarian restaurants.
Some of today’s isolated initiatives, like the sale of natural juices,
have only intensified the problem, as the facilities lack the
infrastructure needed to store and sell these natural products. The
juices become fermented in the dispensers before they are sold to the
public, causing as many health problems as the most synthetic of soft
Of course, the Cuban State is far from assuming a responsible attitude
concerniing this, and regional initiatives like Plato de buen comer (“A
Healthy Dish”) implemented by the Mexican government to encourage
healthy eating habits have eclipsed its efforts. Likewise, the
initiative of the Ecuadorian government aimed at raising taxes on junk
food as a means of discouraging the excessive consumption of these products.
Another example of the double standards that characterize our
authorities is that, after rubbing elbows with ecological and
alternative diet movements around the world, they end up validating the
hegemony of economic interests through their social policies.
Source: Junk Food in Cuba, the State is the Main Supplier – Havana
Times.org – http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106076