Assessing the potential effectiveness of food and beverage taxes and subsidies for improving public health: a systematic review of prices, demand and body weight outcomes
ABSTRACT Taxes and subsidies are increasingly being considered as potential policy instruments to incentivize consumers to improve their food and beverage consumption patterns and related health outcomes. This study provided a systematic review of recent U.S. studies on the price elasticity of demand for sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), fast food, and fruits and vegetables, as well as the direct associations of prices/taxes with body weight outcomes. Based on the recent literature, the price elasticity of demand for SSBs, fast food, fruits and vegetables was estimated to be -1.21, -0.52, -0.49 and -0.48, respectively. The studies that linked soda taxes to weight outcomes showed minimal impacts on weight; however, they were based on existing state-level sales taxes that were relatively low. Higher fast-food prices were associated with lower weight outcomes particularly among adolescents, suggesting that raising prices would potentially impact weight outcomes. Lower fruit and vegetable prices were generally found to be associated with lower body weight outcomes among both low-income children and adults, suggesting that subsidies that would reduce the cost of fruits and vegetables for lower-socioeconomic populations may be effective in reducing obesity. Pricing instruments should continue to be considered and evaluated as potential policy instruments to address public health risks.
12/2014; 3(4):432-439. DOI:10.1007/s13679-014-0123-x
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ABSTRACT: Prevention of obesity requires policies that work. In this Series paper, we propose a new way to understand how food policies could be made to work more effectively for obesity prevention. Our approach draws on evidence from a range of disciplines (psychology, economics, and public health nutrition) to develop a theory of change to understand how food policies work. We focus on one of the key determinants of obesity: diet. The evidence we review suggests that the interaction between human food preferences and the environment in which those preferences are learned, expressed, and reassessed has a central role. We identify four mechanisms through which food policies can affect diet: providing an enabling environment for learning of healthy preferences, overcoming barriers to the expression of healthy preferences, encouraging people to reassess existing unhealthy preferences at the point-of-purchase, and stimulating a food-systems response. We explore how actions in three specific policy areas (school settings, economic instruments, and nutrition labelling) work through these mechanisms, and draw implications for more effective policy design. We find that effective food-policy actions are those that lead to positive changes to food, social, and information environments and the systems that underpin them. Effective food-policy actions are tailored to the preference, behavioural, socioeconomic, and demographic characteristics of the people they seek to support, are designed to work through the mechanisms through which they have greatest effect, and are implemented as part of a combination of mutually reinforcing actions. Moving forward, priorities should include comprehensive policy actions that create an enabling environment for infants and children to learn healthy food preferences and targeted actions that enable disadvantaged populations to overcome barriers to meeting healthy preferences. Policy assessments should be carefully designed on the basis of a theory of change, using indicators of progress along the various pathways towards the long-term goal of reducing obesity rates. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.The Lancet 02/2015; DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61745-1 · 39.21 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The Global Burden of Disease Study and related studies report that unhealthy diet is the leading risk for death and disability globally. Given the evidence associating diet and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), international and national health bodies including the World Health Organization and United Nations have called for population health interventions to improve diet as a means to target NCDs. One of the proposed interventions is to ensure healthy foods/beverages are more accessible to purchasers and unhealthy ones less accessible via fiscal policy, namely taxation and subsidies. The objective of this systematic review was to evaluate the evidence base to assess the impact of healthy food/beverage subsidies and unhealthy food/beverage taxation. A comprehensive review was conducted by searching PubMed, Medline, and Google Scholar for peer-reviewed publications and seventy-eight studies were identified for inclusion in this review. This review was performed in keeping with Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidance. Although moderate in quality, there was consistent evidence that taxation and subsidy intervention influenced dietary behaviors. The quality, level and strength of evidence along with identified gaps in research support the need for further policies and ongoing evaluation of population-wide food/beverage subsidies and taxation. To maximize success and impact, this review suggests that food taxes and subsidies should be a minimum of 10-15% and preferably used in tandem. Implementation of population-wide polices for taxation and subsides with ongoing evaluation of intended and unintended impacts is supported by this review.Nutrition 12/2014; DOI:10.1016/j.nut.2014.12.010 · 3.05 Impact Factor