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Junk food tax must fund price cuts for healthy foods

Wednesday 8 September, 2010

The Obesity Policy Coalition has responded to the Assessing Cost-Effectiveness in Prevention report (ACE-Prevention) by supporting the recommendation of a 10% junk food tax but only if it was implemented in concert with subsidies to reduce the cost of healthy foods.

Senior Policy Adviser for the Obesity Policy Coalition, Jane Martin said that price interventions are a promising measure to prevent obesity; however it is important to take a two-part approach to avoid putting undue pressure on lower socio-economic groups.

"It's not enough just to increase the price of junk foods, you need to cut the price of healthy foods to make them more affordable. At the moment it is cheaper to buy two litres of soft drink than to buy a bottle of water. We need to create financial incentives for people to make healthier choices. We need to make the healthy options the cheap, affordable options."

"A phased approach to taxation could start with a tax on foods that contribute most to overweight and obesity, such as sugary soft drinks. This could have a significant impact on the weight and health of children and enable evaluation of the impact of taxing unhealthy foods in Australia," said Ms Martin. "This approach could also require that the taxes collected are spent on reducing the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables and other healthy foods for children and families in need."

Several countries have implemented taxes on junk food or particular items such as soft drink. In the US, 33 states levy taxes on soft drinks; Taiwan is introducing a tax on junk food; and Denmark taxes some high fat and sugar foods.

Ms Martin said that a similar assessment of the cost-effectiveness of junk food advertising on children and young people also found that this was a very valuable intervention.

"Banning junk food advertising, improving labelling and creating price incentives for people to eat better are effective ways to ensure healthy choices are the easy choices," she said.

About the Obesity Policy Coalition

The Obesity Policy Coalition is a group of leading public health agencies who are concerned about the escalating levels of overweight and obesity, particularly in children.

The Obesity Policy Coalition partners include Diabetes Australia - Vic, Cancer Council Victoria, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University.