Good and bad food taxes

| Post published on August 29, 2017
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Subsidising plant foods and taxing animal foods would transform public health

An American study modelled potential health impacts of changing the pricing of foods. They focused on how these price changes could prevent premature deaths from major diseases – heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

The proposed changes were 10 or 30 per cent subsidies on fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, and nuts and seeds and 10 or 30 per cent tax increase on processed meat, unprocessed red meats and sugar-sweetened beverages. The model scenarios took into account socioeconomic status (people with lower incomes responding more to price changes) and some other important factors. Perhaps predictably, the potential impact of these scenarios was dramatic – the 10 per cent price change could prevent 23,174 deaths from the three diseases each year, whilst the 30 per cent change could save 63,268 lives. The study didn’t speculate on how many cases of each disease could be prevented from occurring in the first place but it’s very likely that the numbers would be in hundreds of thousands.

Peñalvo JL et al., 2017. The potential impact of food taxes and subsidies on cardiovascular disease and diabetes burden and disparities in the United States. BMC Medicine. 15(1):208.

About the author
Dr. Justine Butler
I joined Viva! as a health campaigner in 2005 after graduating from Bristol University with a PhD in molecular biology. My scientific training helped me research and write numerous reports, guides and fact sheets for Viva! including Meat the Truth, Fish-Free for Life, One in Nine (breast cancer and diet) and the substantial report on the detrimental health effects of consuming dairy; White Lies. This accompanied Viva!’s report The Dark Side of Dairy which spelt out the inherent cruelty of dairy farming. We were the first UK group to take on the dairy industry in this way, and many of our supporters go vegan after reading these reports.

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