Food Taxes and Subsidies: Evidence and Policies for Obesity Prevention

Lisa M. Powell and Jamie F. Chriqui

in The Oxford Handbook of the Social Science of Obesity

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199736362
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Food Taxes and Subsidies: Evidence and Policies for Obesity Prevention

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  • Health, Education, and Welfare



This chapter describes the way in which food, beverage, and restaurant consumption products are currently taxed and subsidized in the United States. It summarizes the direct effect of food, beverage, and restaurant prices and taxes on individuals' weight outcomes to evaluate the potential effectiveness of using tax and subsidy-pricing interventions to reduce obesity. The important policy-design considerations related to implementing pricing-policy interventions aimed at obesity prevention are explained. The results show that there is minimal evidence of an effect on weight at the current tax levels. The current approach to taxation of unhealthy foods and beverages in the United States is making a marginal impact, at best, on obesogenic behaviors and weight outcomes. Small tax- or subsidy-related price changes would not likely produce substantial changes in body mass index or obesity prevalence. Fruit and vegetable subsidies would have the greatest effects among children from low-SES families.

Keywords: taxes; food; beverage; restaurant; pricing policy; obesity; United States; body mass index

Article.  9673 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Health, Education, and Welfare

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