Taxes, labelling are effective in reducing sugar consumption

Last Updated: Thu, May 30, 2019 15:51 hrs
FILE PHOTO: A worker checks the flow of sugar inside the Gandavi sugar factory, 165 km (102 miles) south of Ahmedabad

Taxes on sugary products and labels on the packages can help reduce sugar consumption, recent findings suggest.

The study, which included more than 3,500 people aged 13 and over on their purchasing behaviour last spring, also found that taxes could have the greatest impact if 100 per cent fruit juice was included in reduction efforts.

"Governments don't need to wait to implement these policies; they're already used in many other parts of the world and are successful in helping people make healthier food choices. Many people don't realize that fruit juice can have just as much sugar, or more, as regular pop, and these types of drinks aren't always included in a tax when evidence shows that maybe they should be," said Rachel Acton, lead researcher of the study.

In the study, participants purchased food and snacks in scenarios involving different levels of sugar taxes, as well as different types of 'front-of-package' labels, including labels that have been proposed by Health Canada that warn consumers about high levels of sugar, salt, and saturated fat in pre-packaged foods.

The findings were published in the Journal of International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

The study found that when prices increased due to taxes, or packages displayed nutrition labels such as the 'high in sugar' label on the front of packs, people bought drinks and snacks with less sugar, sodium, saturated fat and calories.

"One interesting finding was that the 'high in' labels proved to be most effective at encouraging purchases with less sugar, sodium, saturated fat and calories. This is the type of labelling system the Canadian government is considering and has been already implemented in Chile," explained Acton.

According to the researchers, other systems, like the traffic light labelling used in the U.K. and the health star ratings used in Australia and New Zealand, had some impacts on people's purchases, but to a lesser extent.

Co-author David Hammond asserted that taxes on sugary drinks and better nutrition labels are the types of measures that can help reverse increasing rates of obesity and chronic disease from unhealthy diets.