Taxes (Not Subsidies) Control Calorie Intake

It’s not surprising to discover that in an experiment looking at how taxes and subsidies can be used to influence healthier food purchases it was the taxing of unhealthy food that improved choices, not the subsidisation of healthy options.

Strangely, though, it turns out that the health food subsidies actually worsened choices (the study theorises that the shoppers used the ‘saved’ money to treat themselves, while still purchasing the unhealthy goods).

Taxes were more effective in reducing calories purchased over subsides. Specifically, taxing unhealthy foods reduced overall calories purchased, while cutting the proportion of fat and carbohydrates and upping the proportion of protein in a typical week’s groceries.

By contrast, subsidizing the prices of healthy food actually increased overall calories purchased without changing the nutritional value at all. It appears that mothers took the money they saved on subsidized fruits and vegetables and treated the family to less healthy alternatives, such as chips and soda pop. Taxes had basically the opposite effect, shifting spending from less healthy to healthier choices.

via Nudge