Time for a junk food tax?

July 24, 2011 at 1:42 pm 3 comments

Have you ever wondered what would happen if we increased the price of  junk food and used the additional revenue to subsidize fresh, healthy food? Perhaps more important, what will happen if we don’t?

“The need is indisputable,” argues Mark Bittman in today’s New York Times,  “since heart disease, diabetes and cancer are all in large part caused by the Standard American Diet (SAD).

Taxing junk food, Bittman explains, would reduce unhealthy consumption and generate billions of dollars that could be used to make healthy food more affordable and accessible.

For example, increasing the price of soda by 20 percent could result in a 20 percent decrease in consumption, which in the next decade could prevent about 1.5 million Americans from becoming obese and  avoid 400,000 cases of diabetes. Bottom line, that one step would save nearly $30 billion in healthcare costs.

Now there’s a budget-reduction plan that we could sink our teeth in.  Boehner and Obama take note.

To learn more, read the rest of Bittman’s analysis here.

Entry filed under: food access, Politics/ Policy, Sustainable Food. Tags: , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. angelina  |  July 25, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I ❤ Mark Bittman for so many reasons. Than ks for sharing Dee

  • 2. Terry Mehlman  |  July 31, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I don’t disagree with the overall point about equalizing the cost of foods (ie adding in societal costs to unhealthy or unsustainably produced foods). However, I really believe that such arguments are substantially weakened by such off-hand and specious use of numbers and statistics. I plead for everyone to be a bit more careful about this. For instance in your example: 1) a 20% increase in the price of soda would amount to about $1 per 12-pack assuming a 12-pack costs $5 (which is high). I don’t think any reasonable person would claim that this would automatically reduce consumption by 20%. People will pay a premium for what they want — to an extent. 2) Only sugared and HFC laced soda contributes to obesity. Diet sodas may have other problems but they have no calories. 3) If every person stopped drinking sugared and HFC sodas tomorrow completely, this would not eliminate obesity and diabetes. These are complex, societal problems. Tagging soda as some kind of silver bullet simplifies and trivializes the problem. 4) So, the proposed savings in health care costs is basically made out of whole cloth. This really weakens the overall (very good) argument in my opinon.

  • 3. run4joy59  |  August 27, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I would like more people to have access to an area where they could garden, growing some of their own produce. I think then they could see how good real food tastes. I think so many people have no concept of where fruit and veggies really come from…and kids are much more likely to eat veggies that they’ve helped grow.


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