What is the evidence for food taxes and subsidies changing diets?

Pound_coinsWe conducted a systematic scoping review of the evidence for the effects of interventions that change prices or income in ways that promote healthier diets or physical activity. The studies we found:

  • Focused on price promotions, taxes, supply-side subsidies and transfer payments (no studies were found on direct pricing legislation (e.g. minimum unit pricing)).
  • Largely focused on diet, with little evidence for interventions targeting physical activity.

Price is a critical element of the environment shaping behaviour, but our results suggest the evidence for using economic instruments to promote dietary and physical activity is less compelling and more complex than some claim.

Economic Instruments for Population Diet and Physical Activity Behaviour Change: A Systematic Scoping Review. Shemilt, Hollands, Marteau, Nakamura, Jebb, Kelly, Suhrcke & Ogilvie. 2013.

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Use and cumulation of evidence from modelling studies to inform policy on food taxes and subsidies: biting off more than we can chew? Shemilt, Marteau, Smith & Ogilvie, 2013

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