Effects of health-related food taxes and subsidies on mortality from diet-related disease in New Zealand: An econometric-epidemiologic modelling study
Mhurchu CN., Eyles H., Genc M., Scarborough P., Rayner M., Mizdrak A., Nnoaham K., Blakely T.
© 2015 Ni Mhurchu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Background Health-related food taxes and subsidies may promote healthier diets and reduce mortality. Our aim was to estimate the effects of health-related food taxes and subsidies on deaths prevented or postponed (DPP) in New Zealand. Methods A macrosimulation model based on household expenditure data, demand elasticities and population impact fractions for 18 diet-related diseases was used to estimate effects of five tax and subsidy regimens. We used price elasticity values for 24 major commonly consumed food groups in New Zealand, and food expenditure data from national Household Economic Surveys. Changes in mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and other diet-related diseases were estimated. Findings A 20% subsidy on fruit and vegetables would result in 560 (95% uncertainty interval, 400 to 700) DPP each year (1.9% annual all-cause mortality). A 20% tax on major dietary sources of saturated fat would result in 1,500 (950 to 2,100) DPP (5.0%), and a 20% tax on major dietary sources of sodium would result in 2,000 (1300 to 2,700) DPP (6.8%). Combining taxes on saturated fat and sodium with a fruit and vegetable subsidy would result in 2,400 (1,800 to 3,000) DPP (8.1% mortality annually). A tax on major dietary sources of greenhouse gas emissions would generate 1,200 (750 to 1,700) DPP annually (4.0%). Effects were similar or greater for Maori and low-income households in relative terms. Conclusions Health-related food taxes and subsidies could improve diets and reduce mortality from dietrelated disease in New Zealand. Our study adds to the growing evidence base suggesting food pricing policies should improve population health and reduce inequalities, but there is still much work to be done to improve estimation of health impacts.