A number of regions in the United States have tossed around the idea of implementing food taxes on unhealthy items as well as sugary drinks, and some, like New York City, have already gone ahead with plans to limit the amount of such products available to consumers. While such tactics have met with criticism, a new study from researchers in New Zealand indicates junk food taxes may have the desired effect, despite public outrage.
Analyzing information from 32 previous studies, experts were able to determine there would be a 0.02 percent decline in junk food consumption for every 1 percent price increase.
When it comes to sugary drinks, a 10 percent increase in price could lower consumption by as much as 24 percent.
The findings, which were published in the journal PLoS Medicine, also revealed a decrease in the cost of fruits and vegetables would likely equate to an increase in consumption of 2 to 8 percent.
While the New Zealand study indicated a reduction in junk food consumption, an earlier study published in the British Medical Journal indicated that in order for a junk food tax to be truly effective, it would have to increase the cost of products by at least 20 percent.
“Taxation needs to be at least 20 percent to have a significant effect on obesity and cardiovascular disease,” wrote Oliver Mytton, of the British Heart Foundation’s Health Promotion Research Group, reported by U.S. News. “Taxing a wide range of unhealthy foods or nutrients is likely to result in greater health benefits than would accrue from narrow taxes.”
The United States is not the first country to consider such a junk food tax. Hungary, Denmark and Peru have all implemented a tax protocol on fatty foods and sugary drinks, in the effort, explain experts, to combat the global obesity epidemic. Recent studies have linked obesity to consumption of certain foods, especially soda.
“I know of no other category of food whose elimination can produce weight loss in such a short period of time,” Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital told Reuters. “The most effective single target for an intervention aimed at reducing obesity is sugary beverages.”
While a country-wide junk food tax has not yet been implemented in the United States, New York City has taken the initiative and compiled some of the most stringent policies regarding junk food sales, restricting soda and other sugar beverage sizes within the city limits.
Will or should the nation follow New York City’s lead, and take an additional step by implementing food tax on unhealthy products?