Sin tax reduces intake of energy-dense food in Mexico

Chips
After the introduction of sin tax, 25 grams per person per month reduction in intake of energy-dense food was seen in Mexico.

That taxing energy-dense, unhealthy food will result in a drop in consumption levels has come out unequivocally clear in Mexico. In January 2014, Mexico introduced 8 per cent tax on foods items with energy density of over 275 kcal/100 g and one peso per litre of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Data of household consumption of nonessential energy-dense food in Mexico shows a decline in 2014. The nonessential food included salty snacks, chips, pastries and frozen desserts.  The results of a study were published on July 5, 2016 in PLOS Medicine.

While there were no changes in mean volume of purchase of taxed food items among high socioeconomic status households, both low and medium socioeconomic households showed a reduction. The reduction was 10.2 per cent in the case of low socioeconomic households, while the drop was 5.8 per cent in the case of medium socioeconomic households. Compared with households from higher socioeconomic status, the low socioeconomic households bought less taxed food before and after tax but showed the “greatest response” to the tax. An earlier study showed a 6 per cent decline in taxed sugar-sweetened beverages.

The mean volume of purchases of taxed food during 2014 dropped by 25 grams (5.1 per cent) per person per month. The reduction of 25 grams per person per month translates into 70-110 kcal. However, there was no change in the purchase of non-taxable food items during 2014. The greatest change in total purchase of taxed food was seen in salty snacks and cereal-based sweets.

The purchases represent only a “fraction” of all household purchases, so the real absolute change in energy consumption from taxed food products “might be higher”, the authors say.

Besides reducing the amount of energy-dense food consumed by individuals, the introduction of taxes had an unexpected positive impact. Many companies reformulated their products, particularly jam and spreads, to fall under the 275 kcal/100 gram threshold.

The study used data on volume of household food purchases between January 2012 and December 2014 and included 6, 248 households.

Mexico introduced the tax as it has one of the highest prevalence rates for overweight and obesity in the world at over 33 per cent for children in the 2-18 years age group and around 70 per cent for adults. In 2006, the prevalence of diabetes in adults was 14.4 per cent. Mexico is the fourth largest consumer of energy-dense, ultra-refined food and drinks.

Published in The Hindu on July 6, 2016

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