Assessing the potential effectiveness of food and beverage taxes and subsidies for improving public health: a systematic review of prices, demand and body weight outcomes

Obes Rev. 2013 Feb;14(2):110-28. 
Authors: Powell LM, Chriqui JF, Khan T, Wada R, Chaloupka FJ.

Taxes and subsidies are increasingly being considered as potential policy instruments to incentivize consumers to improve their food and beverage consumption patterns and related health outcomes. This study provided a systematic review of recent U.S. studies on the price elasticity of demand for sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), fast food, and fruits and vegetables, as well as the direct associations of prices/taxes with body weight outcomes. Based on the recent literature, the price elasticity of demand for SSBs, fast food, fruits and vegetables was estimated to be -1.21, -0.52, -0.49 and -0.48, respectively. The studies that linked soda taxes to weight outcomes showed minimal impacts on weight; however, they were based on existing state-level sales taxes that were relatively low. Higher fast-food prices were associated with lower weight outcomes particularly among adolescents, suggesting that raising prices would potentially impact weight outcomes. Lower fruit and vegetable prices were generally found to be associated with lower body weight outcomes among both low-income children and adults, suggesting that subsidies that would reduce the cost of fruits and vegetables for lower-socioeconomic populations may be effective in reducing obesity. Pricing instruments should continue to be considered and evaluated as potential policy instruments to address public health risks.

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