Food taxes: reviewing the scientific literature

Reviewing the scientific literature on food and drink taxation.

Food taxes: reviewing the scientific literature

The academic community is increasingly looking into taxation as an instrument to change dietary consumption patterns. Although some academics support tax-based approaches, a large number of scientific studies express serious doubts about the effectiveness and appropriateness of taxes on foodstuffs (see list below with selected quotes).

So far there is no consensus among scientists about the utility of using fiscal measures to promote healthy diets. In the absence of scientific evidence it seems too costly in terms of the impact on employment levels and sales for policy-makers to propose such measures.

This section serves as a literature review of academic studies and papers on food taxation and its impact.

Alemanno, Alberto & Carreño, Ignacio, 2011. “Fat taxes in the EU between fiscal austerity and the fight against obesity”, European Journal of Risk Regulation 4, 2011?
Allais, Olivier & Bertail, P. & Nichele, Veronique, 2008. “The Effects of a ‘Fat Tax’ on the Nutrient Intake of French Households”, European Association of Agricultural Economists, 2008 International Congress Ghent, 2008
Amarasinghe, Anura & D’Souza, Gerard, 2010. Obesity Prevention: A Review of the Interactions and Interventions, and some Policy Implications, West Virginia University, Regional Research Institute, Research Paper 2010-2, 2010
Bahl, Roy, 1998. Why Levy Discriminatory Excises on Soft Drinks?, International Studies Program, School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University, Working Paper 98.3, 1998
Barclay, Alan W. & Brand-Miller, Jennie, 2011. “The Australian Paradox: A Substantial Decline in Sugars Intake over the Same Timeframe that Overweight and Obesity Have Increased”, Nutrients 3, 2011
Clark, J. Stephen & Dittrich, O. Ludwig, 2010. “Alternative Fat Taxes to Control Obesity”, Int Adv Econ Res 16.4, 2010
Craven, Barrie & Marlow, Michael L. & Shiers, Alden, 2012. “Fat Taxes and Other Interventions Won't Cure Obesity”, Economic Affairs 32.2, 2012
Crowle, Jacqueline & Turner, Erin, 2010. Childhood Obesity: An Economic Perspective, Australian Government, Productivity Commission Working Paper, Melbourne 2010
Etilé, Fabrice, 2012. “La taxation nutritionnelle comme outil de santé publique : justifications et effets attendus” (with English summary “Nutritional taxes as a policy instrument for public health: Rationales and expected impact”), Cahiers de nutrition et de diététique 47.1, 2012
Fletcher, Jason M. & Frisvold, David E. & Tefft, Nathan, 2010. “The effects of soft drink taxes on child and adolescent consumption and weight outcomes”, Journal of Public Economics 94, 2010
Gelbach, Jonah B. & Klick, Jonathan & Stratmann, Thomas, 2007. Cheap Donuts and Expensive Broccoli: The Effect of Relative Prices on Obesity, Social Science Research Network, Working Paper Series, 2007
Hawkes, Corinna, 2012. “Food taxes: what type of evidence is available to inform policy development?”, Nutrition Bulletin 37, 2012
Hespel, Véronique & Berthod-Wurmser, Marianne, 2008. Rapport sur la pertinence et la faisabilité d'une taxation nutritionelle (Report on the pertinence and feasibility of a nutritional tax), République Française, Inspection générale des Finances, Inspection générale des Affaires sociales, Paris 2008
International Tax & Investment Center, Oxford Economics, 2013. “The Impacts of Selective Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages Taxes”, ITIC Issue Papers, February 2013
Lacanilao, Ryan D. & Cash, Sean B. & Adamowicz, Wiktor L., 2011. “Heterogeneous Consumer Responses to Snack Food Taxes and Warning Labels”, Journal of Consumer Affairs 45.1, 2011
Mattes, R.D. & Shikany, J.M & Kaiser, K.A. & Allison, D.B., 2011. “Nutritively sweetened beverage consumption and body weight: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized experiments”, Obesity Reviews 12.5, 2011
OECD, 2010. Healthy Choices, OECD Health Ministerial Meeting, Paris, 7-8 October 2010, Session 2, Paris 2010
OECD, 2010. Sassi, Franco. Obesity and the Economics of Prevention. Fit not Fat, OECD Publications, Paris 2010
OECD, 2012. Obesity Update 2012, OECD Policy Brief, Paris 2010
Shemilt I., Hollands G., Marteau T., Nakamura R., Jebb S., Kelly M., Suhrcke M., Ogilvie D. “Economic Instruments for Population Diet and Physical Activity Behaviour Change: A Systematic Scoping Review”, Plos One, issue 9, 2013
Suggs, L. Suzanne & McIntyre, Chris, 2011. “European Union public opinion on policy measures to address childhood overweight and obesity”, Journal of Public Health Policy 32, 2011
Valente, Hugo et al., 2010. “Sugar-sweetened beverage intake and overweight in children from a Mediterranean country”, Public Health Nutrition 14.1, 2010
Wansink, Brian et al., 2012. “From Coke to Coors: A Field Study of a Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax and its Unintended Consequences”, Social Science Research Network online publication, July 2012
Waterlander, W.E.; Steenhuis, I.H.; de Boer, M.R.; Schuit, A.J.; Seidell, J.C., 2012. “Introducing taxes, subsidies or both: The effects of various food pricing strategies in a web-based supermarket randomized trial”, Preventive Medicine 54.5, 2012
Jason M. Fletcher, David E. Frisvold And Nathan Tefft, 2014. “Non-Linear Effects of Soda Taxes on Consumption and Weight Outcomes”, Health Economics 2014,