Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the most expensive healthy food basket in the world
18 enero 2023


Healthy diet. On January 18, FAO, together with WHO/PAHO, published the report “Regional overview of food and nutrition security – Latin America and the Caribbean 2022“. The report highlights that the price of a healthy diet in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is on average above the global cost. This results in different forms of malnutrition, such as stunting, anemia, overweight and obesity, as people choose to buy food that is cheap in price but poor in nutrients. In order to counteract this phenomenon, FAO recommends a series of public policies, including working on or transferring tax subsidies from agricultural producers to end consumers. It also recommends promoting front-end food labeling, such as taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages in order to discourage the demand for this type of product.

The document notes that the average cost of a healthy diet worldwide in 2020 was US$3.54 per person per day, while in LAC the cost was higher, at US$3.89 per person per day in 2020. In addition, the cost of a healthy diet in the region increased by 3.4% between 2019 and 2020. The report also highlights that 22.5% of the Latin American and Caribbean population cannot afford to access a healthy diet. It is also worth noting that, according to the report, the greatest burden of this increase falls on vulnerable populations such as indigenous peoples, rural dwellers and women.

According to Mario Lubetkin, Deputy Director and Regional Representative for LAC, “to contribute to the affordability of healthy diets, it is necessary to create incentives for the diversification of the production of nutritious foods, aimed mainly at family agriculture and small-scale producers, measures for price transparency of these foods in markets and trade, cash transfers and other actions such as improving school menus”.

The document also notes that the conflict in Ukraine has increased the prices of major food, energy and fertilizers, compromising global food security. Rising prices for wheat, maize and sunflower oil make it difficult to access nutritious foods that are part of healthy diets in the region, as many countries, such as those in the Caribbean, are net importers of these foods.

Next steps

In order to increase the affordability of healthy diets, the report argues that it will be necessary to promote public policies that ultimately aim to reduce the price of nutritious foods and address the constraints of the most vulnerable populations that do not have adequate physical and economic access to a healthy diet. Among these, it encourages a global transformation of agri-food systems to make them more efficient and sustainable, allowing for greater food production and a reduced final price.

In addition, the report encourages the adaptation of different policies to improve access to healthy diets. Among them, it mentions the control of market prices in support of healthy diets; the transfer of tax subsidies from producers to consumers; and also both labeling and taxation of processed foods. 

Among the benefits highlighted in the document on food labeling is the change of formulas to produce products with lower energy, in addition to the reduction of the intention to buy these products. It also highlights that 21 of 33 countries in the region have taxes on sugary drinks, whose demand for sugary drinks decreased between 15 and 25%.

Engagement opportunities for McDonald’s

The report states that reducing the price of healthy diets can only be accomplished with the participation of all sectors of the agri-food system, including the private sector. In this sense, McDonald’s could show its support for these policies and the food reality of the region by carrying out campaigns to promote healthy lifestyles and diets, as well as evidence of the policies it has been adopting to improve the offer in its menus in terms of healthy food.