‘Sin tax’ reduces intake of energy-dense food in Mexico

Household purchases of nonessential energy-dense foods declined in Mexico in 2014 within a year of the government introducing 8 per cent tax on foods items with energy density of over 275 kcal/100 g, says a study published on Tuesday in PLOS Medicine. The nonessential food items included salty snacks, chips, pastries and frozen desserts.

While there was no change in the mean volume of taxed food items purchased by households in ‘high socioeconomic status’ category, consumption of such food declined in low and medium socioeconomic households. The reduction was 10.2 per cent in the case of low socioeconomic households, and 5.8 per cent in the case of medium socioeconomic ones.

Compared with affluent households, the low socioeconomic onesbought less-taxed food items before and after the tax, but showed the “greatest response” to it. An earlier study showed a 6 per cent decline in taxed (one peso per litre) sugar-sweetened beverages.

The mean volume of purchases of taxed food in 2014 dropped by 25 grams (5.1 per cent) per capita 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 in 2014. The greatest change in total purchase of taxed food was with 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.

Obesity prevalence rate

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 obesity in the world. Over 33 per cent of Mexican children in the 2-18 years age group and around 70 per cent of its adults are obese. The North American country is the fourth largest consumer of energy-dense, ultras-refined food and drinks.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 1:04:59 PM |

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