A 5% tax on fattening foods is “highly effective” at promoting healthier choices and tackling obesity, a six year study found.
If a low-fat product is just 10p cheaper than a high-fat product, people – particularly in low-income neighbourhoods – will select it, according to the study of more than 1,700 USA supermarkets.
This contrasts the minimum 10-20% tax, which Public Health England feels is necessary in terms of a sugar tax in England.
“Here, we have compelling field-based evidence that such taxes don’t need to be high to be effective,” Vishal Singh of New York University, responded.
“The general perception is that these taxes need to be substantial, at least 20% and often as high as 50%, to have a meaningful impact. This would be highly regressive since low-income consumers spend a greater proportion of their disposable income on food,” he added.
The study looked particularly at the cost of low and high fat milk, finding that if a gallon of whole milk is just 15 cents (around 10 pence) more expensive than the lower-calorie alternative, it causes a “significant shift in market share” to the low-fat option.