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Taxes on junk food proposed by university

In recent efforts to understand buying habits and dietary patterns with the public, researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Harvard University and Boston Children's Hospital request a tax be placed on lower quality foods, oftentimes deemed “junk foods” to decrease expenses towards healthcare and increase nutritional value of foods. The researchers suggest it is too much responsibility and difficult enough for the average consumer to be able to read food labels and dissect nutrition facts to make proper dietary choices for themselves, and having a different approach to purchasing “healthy items” would be more appropriate for those who struggle with the making healthier meal choices.

The researchers’ solution to the issue of the climbing rate of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and a number of other diseases is to simply add a flat tax of 10%-30% on most pre-packaged foods.This excludes fresh produce, lentils, whole grain items, and fish among a few other foods. The tax would not be limited to only packaged foods found in the supermarket, but also many dishes served in restaurants that would be labeled “unhealthy”. For the healthier foods outside the taxation, prices may drop as increased costs of junk food would able to subsidize prices for the healthier items. The idea of nation-wide taxation on junk food is not completely unheard of or too far-out from the norm, as schools have had a meal-time makeover within recent years to subsidize meals that comply with more “nutritious” standards and similar to the proposition by Tufts University researchers, the goal has been to encourage healthier dietary habits while maintaining relatively low costs to students. If this taxation goes into effect, the consumer may find it too expensive to buy junk food, and buying the cheaper, healthier products would be more justified.

Is this too radical a change for the coming years? Only time will tell, as America has struggled with finding the balance between offering lighter, healthier options that may not satisfy consumers and in making a steady profit. The ultimate goal through this taxation request seems to be encouraging manufacturers to provide higher quality, more nutrient dense products to help guide consumers into better, healthier lifestyles.

1. Reference: Dariush Mozaffarian, Kenneth S. Rogoff, David S. Ludwig. The Real Cost of Food.JAMA, 2014; 312 (9): 889 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2014.8232

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