Food Engineering

Food pricing may help control weight

April 3, 2009

Could taxes on unhealthy food help?

A new article published in The Milbank Quarterly explores how food prices can affect weight outcomes and reveals that pricing interventions can have a significant effect on obesity rates. Part of an 11-article series focusing on obesity, the article said raising the prices of less healthy foods (e.g., fast foods and sugary products) and lowering the prices of healthier foods (e.g., fruits and vegetables) is associated with lower body weight and less likelihood of obesity. Children and adolescents, the poor, and those already overweight are most responsive to the price changes.

Small taxes on unhealthy food items or small subsidies for healthy foods are not likely to produce substantial changes in body-mass index (BMI) or obesity prevalence. Non-trivial pricing interventions may have a measurable effect on Americans’ weight outcomes, the report states.

For more information or to read the article, visit Milbank’s Web site.