Volume 46 Number 182,
July-September 2015

The Basic Food Basket and Food Quality in Mexico. Felipe Torres, Institute of Economic Research-UNAM,
Mexico, 2014.

Food security is a high-priority issue, but it will certainly face tremendous challenges in the years to come (Godfray et al., 2010). These include global economic, social, and environmental processes that will determine whether and how a growing number of people have access to a quality diet. It is in the midst of this extremely critical time for both academic research and public administration that Felipe Torres Torres' work, The Basic Food Basket and Food Quality in Mexico, is being published, by Ariel, UNAM and CIAD (2014).

The book contributes to the debate surrounding how to define and measure food security through the concept of food quality.

Essentially, we need to develop new ways to measure quality, and take into account other factors that would support public policymaking to achieve better nutrition, such as household income and spending on food (Pinstrup-Anderson, 2009). In keeping with this novel conceptual line of thought, the author proposes a basic food basket that would, unlike the "official" basic basket, take into account not only the nutrition facts of foods, but also the purchasing power of the population.

The book is divided into four chapters, as well as an introduction and section for conclusions, and an added bonus worthy of special mention: a downloadable electronic appendix containing 53 tables with tremendously valuable information about prices, spending per food type, consumption, purchasing power, and more, in 30-year time series.

The first chapter discusses some of the broader aspects that influence food security, especially in the midst of Mexico's shifting development model, which has evolved from a Welfare State to the advent of international free trade. Some of these factors are related to the increase in food prices and the consequent heightened difficulties people face in accessing food. Although the distortions of international trade (such as dumping and non-tariff barriers) have indeed negatively impacted local producers and consumers, the author also could have dedicated a few lines to the role of intermediaries. Basically, the agriculture and livestock sector is especially vulnerable to the concentration of power in the domestic market, which is why inequity in accessing food is not only due to international factors.

In the second chapter, the author describes and then justifies his proposal for the basic food basket to measure food quality in the Mexican population. His conceptual arguments are clear and convincing, but the lack of practical evidence with figures or graphs was disappointing. Although true that the appendix contains the tables, it would have been an interesting exercise to show more empirical detail and, if necessary, trim some of the text in the chapter, especially in the earlier sections. This would have provided more explicit proof of the utility of this approach, which would allow it to be replicated for other regions or countries.

It is in the third chapter that Felipe Torres defines food quality, focusing on the characteristics of food to define its quality and safeness for consumption. In other words, this is a supply-based approach. However, there are conceptual proposals that explain that product quality can be defined by the information available and consumer perception of risk and the attributes of food quality (Caswell and Mojduska, 1996; Grunert, 2005). This would be an interesting topic for future research.

In the fourth chapter, the author delves into the information available in the electronic appendix in greater detail to link consumer behavior in the realm of spending on food and food quality. It also introduces an interesting discussion, which, implicitly, is a relatively novel approach of heterodox economics: evolutionary economics. Although the author does not make specific reference to the field, he expounds upon various concepts involved in the debate surrounding innovation in consumption and supply in the evolutionary theory of household consumer behavior set forth by Nelson and Consoli (2010). This conceptual framework discusses whether supply determines demand or vice versa, or whether they evolve together; it therefore tries to explain how consumers do or do not alter their consumption activities and needs depending on the attributes of a good, as would be the case for food quality and security. It is undoubtedly another research path for Mexico that Felipe Torres' work suggests.

The appendix contains a good deal of information that could be useful in many ways, both to the author in future works and to his readers. One issue with the data is that it is only available in some cases for even years (1992-2012), because the National Household Income Survey (ENIGH), conducted by the National Institute for Statistics and Geography, is only administered every other year (INEGI, 2013).

In conclusion, the book The Basic Food Basket and Food Quality in Mexico, written by Felipe Torres Torres, is a mandatory reference for anyone looking to understand food quality from a more comprehensive perspective than what has typically been employed to date. It also provides a wealth of applied research opportunities for the Mexican agrifood system.



REFERENCES

Caswell, Julie. A. and Eliza M. Mojduszka (1996), “Using Informational Labeling to Influence The Market for Quality in Food Products”, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, vol. 78, Oxford, Oxford University Press, December, pp. 1248-1253.

Godfray, H., Charles, J., John R. Beddington et al.(2010), Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People”, Science, vol. 327, New York, American Association for the Advancement of Science, February, pp. 812-818.

Grunert Klaus, G. (2005), “Food Quality and Safety: Consumer Perception and Demand”, European Review of Agricultural Economics, vol. 32, no. 3, Oxford, Oxford University Press, September, pp. 369-391.

INEGI (2013), “Encuesta Nacional de Ingresos y Gastos de los Hogares 2012: descripción de la base de datos” (Consulted February 23, 2015), available at: <http:// www3.inegi.org.mx/sistemas/microdatos/microdatos_archivos/enigh/doc/conociendo_bd_enigh12.pdf >

Nelson, Richard R.and Davide Consoli (2010), “An Evolutionary Theory of Household Consumption Behavior”, Journal of Evolutionary Economics, vol. 20, New York, Springer, October, pp. 665-687.

Pinstrup-Andersen, Per (2009), “Food Security: Definition and Measurement”, Food Security, vol. 1, New York, Springer, October, pp. 5-7.

Alonso Aguilar
Institute of Economic Research – unam

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PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 194 July-September 2018 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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