Taxation of the fat content of foods for reducing their consumption and preventing obesity or other adverse health outcomes

Cochrane Public Health group published a systematic review in September 2020 where the effects of taxation of the fat content in food on consumption of total fat and saturated fat, energy intake, overweight, obesity, and other adverse health outcomes in the general population were assessed.

The evidence current to September 2019 found two studies from Denmark, conducted during 2011 to 2012. One looked at how a tax on some high‐fat foods affected household demand for them; the other looked at information on supermarket sales for certain high‐fat foods (minced beef, cream, and sour cream). They compared their results with data from before the tax started.

Both studies looked at a small number of foods that people bought, but not what foods people ate. They didn't measure how much total fat or saturated fat were eaten.

The results of the review shows that, if the amount of foods bought reflected the amount of foods eaten, then taxing the fat content of certain foods:

‐ might reduce the total amount of fats eaten by 41.8 grams a week for each person in a household, in one study of 2000 households; and

‐ might reduce the amount of saturated fats eaten (in minced beef and cream), in one study of 1293 supermarkets.

No studies measured the effect of taxing the fat content of foods on calories eaten, on obesity or overweight, or on total food sales.

The authors are not confident in the results because the evidence is only from two studies; and these studies only measured a small number of foods bought, and did not measure foods eaten. One study did not report statistics about the accuracy of its results. The results were from

observational studies, in which researchers observe the effect of a factor (such as taxation) without trying to change who does, or does not, experience it. Observational studies do not give as reliable evidence as randomized controlled studies, in which the treatments people receive are decided at random.

The study did not find enough reliable evidence to find out whether a tax on the fat content of foods resulted in people eating less fat, or less saturated fat and did not find any evidence about how a tax on the fat content of foods affected obesity or overweight. The results of the review will change when further evidence becomes available.

The systematic review can be accessed at

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