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Tax and Pricing Policies Spur Healthier Eating

Correlation Between Diet and Food Costs

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A meta-study from Tufts University, in Medford, Massachusetts, documents a revealing relationship between diet and food prices. The researchers found that taxation of unhealthy foods and price reductions of healthy foods help shift consumers to healthier purchases.

They reviewed data from 11 studies on the impact of adding tariffs to unhealthy foods that lead to higher prices and 19 studies that examined the effects on the demand of reducing the prices of healthy foods. They discovered that consumers purchased 14 percent more fruits and vegetables when prices were reduced by 10 percent. Other healthy food price reductions produced similar results, with a 16 percent increase in consumption with each 10 percent price drop.

The researchers examined the impact of increases in the price of sugary drinks and fast foods. Following 10 percent price hikes, consumption of these items decreased by 7 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

“The global food system is exacting a staggering toll on human health, and this is very costly, both in terms of real healthcare expenses and lost productivity,” says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, senior author of the meta-study and dean of the university’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. “Our findings suggest that subsidies and taxes are a highly effective tool for normalizing the price of foods toward their true societal cost. This will both prevent disease and reduce spiraling healthcare costs, which are causing a tremendous strain on both private businesses and government budgets.”


This article appears in the July 2017 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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