Crunching the numbers on healthy food incentives

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Professor Tony Blakely, Healthier Lives principal investigator, is a co-author of a recent paper exploring the impact of food taxes and subsidies on health gains. The study applied the potential impact to the population of Australia. Findings included additional healthy-life years (2.1 years per 100 people alive in Australia in 2010), and a net cost saving of $3.4 billion to the health sector.

The Guardian reports that one of the key components of the study was a negligible overall change to the household budget.  The increased costs of food and beverages that were more heavily taxed were offset by subsidies for fresh fruit and vegetables.

“You need to include both carrots and sticks to change consumer behaviour and to encourage new taxes,” Professor Blakely said. “That’s where this paper is cutting edge internationally.

“For those who might say this is an example of nanny state measures, let’s consider that we don’t mind asbestos being taken out buildings to prevent respiratory disease, and we’re happy for lead to be taken from petrol. We need to change the food system if we are going to tackle obesity and prevent disease.”

Read the full article:

Australia would save $3.4bn if junk food taxed and fresh food subsidised, says study (the guardian website)

Tony was also interviewed with other guests on Weekend Sunrise, Australia:

Should we tax unhealthy foods (Yahoo! 7 tv)