Could targeted food taxes improve health?


Mytton, O; Gray, A; Rayner, M; Rutter, H; (2007) Could targeted food taxes improve health? Journal of epidemiology and community health, 61 (8). pp. 689-94. ISSN 0143-005X DOI: 10.1136/jech.2006.047746

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE To examine the effects on nutrition, health and expenditure of extending value added tax (VAT) to a wider range of foods in the UK. METHOD A model based on consumption data and elasticity values was constructed to predict the effects of extending VAT to certain categories of food. The resulting changes in demand, expenditure, nutrition and health were estimated. Three different tax regimens were examined: (1) taxing the principal sources of dietary saturated fat; (2) taxing foods defined as unhealthy by the SSCg3d nutrient scoring system; and (3) taxing foods in order to obtain the best health outcome. DATA Consumption patterns and elasticity data were taken from the National Food Survey of Great Britain. The health effects of changing salt and fat intake were from previous meta-analyses. RESULTS (1) Taxing only the principal sources of dietary saturated fat is unlikely to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease because the reduction in saturated fat is offset by a rise in salt consumption. (2) Taxing unhealthy foods, defined by SSCg3d score, might avert around 2,300 deaths per annum, primarily by reducing salt intake. (3) Taxing a wider range of foods could avert up to 3,200 cardiovascular deaths in the UK per annum (a 1.7% reduction). CONCLUSIONS Taxing foodstuffs can have unpredictable health effects if cross-elasticities of demand are ignored. A carefully targeted fat tax could produce modest but meaningful changes in food consumption and a reduction in cardiovascular disease.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Health Services Research and Policy
Research Centre: ECOHOST - The Centre for Health and Social Change
Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)
PubMed ID: 17630367
Web of Science ID: 248036300007
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/55591

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