The Government says it has no plans to introduce a tax on
soft drinks and fatty foods, despite a University of Otago
study showing such a move could improve people's health.
The study, by researchers from Otago and Auckland
universities and published yesterday, found that based on 32
studies from high-income countries, there would be a 0.02%
fall in energy intake from saturated fat for each 1% price
increase. A 10% increase in the price of soft drinks could
cut consumption by up to 24%.
It also found the consumption of fruit and vegetables could
increase by between 2% and 8% for each 10% decrease in price.
However, the authors found that a subsidy could result in
people buying fewer other healthy products, such as fish, or
more unhealthy products.
The study also found that people from lower socioeconomic
backgrounds were more likely to change their habits as a
result of taxes or subsidies.
Co-author Prof Tony Blakely, from Otago University's
department of public health in Wellington, said there should
be taxes on unhealthy foods, just as there were on alcohol
This was especially the case for sugary drinks, for which
price increases were shown to have the greatest impact on
''We think there is probably enough information to start
acting now,'' Prof Blakely said.
However, Health Minister Tony Ryall told the Otago Daily
Times the Government had no plans to introduce taxes on
''Such a tax would add to the burden of many families in
tight economic times,'' he said.
Prof Blakely accepted Mr Ryall's argument that just
increasing taxes would add to financial strain. However, if
subsidies for healthy foods were introduced alongside taxes
it was possible families could be better off financially.
University of Canterbury senior lecturer in economics Dr Eric
Crampton said introducing taxes and subsidies on food would
''They're the kind of thing that sounds simple, but wind up
being a bit of a compliance nightmare,'' Dr Crampton said.
Issues such as whether frozen or canned foods should be
subsidised and where to draw the line in terms of how
processed a food was would be difficult to administer, he