Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Access
  • Cited by 40
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Le, Ha N.D. Gold, Lisa Abbott, Gavin Crawford, David McNaughton, Sarah A. Mhurchu, Cliona Ni Pollard, Christina and Ball, Kylie 2016. Economic evaluation of price discounts and skill-building strategies on purchase and consumption of healthy food and beverages: The SHELf randomized controlled trial. Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 159, p. 83.

    Reynolds, Christian Buckley, Jonathan Weinstein, Philip and Boland, John 2016. Sustainable Food and Beverage Industries.

    Alagiyawanna, AMAAP Townsend, Nick Mytton, Oli Scarborough, Pete Roberts, Nia and Rayner, Mike 2015. Studying the consumption and health outcomes of fiscal interventions (taxes and subsidies) on food and beverages in countries of different income classifications; a systematic review. BMC Public Health, Vol. 15, Issue. 1,

    Caraher, Martin and Cowburn, Gill 2015. Guest Commentary: Fat and other taxes, lessons for the implementation of preventive policies. Preventive Medicine, Vol. 77, p. 204.

    Niebylski, Mark L. Redburn, Kimbree A. Duhaney, Tara and Campbell, Norm R. 2015. Healthy food subsidies and unhealthy food taxation: A systematic review of the evidence. Nutrition, Vol. 31, Issue. 6, p. 787.

    Otero, Gerardo Pechlaner, Gabriela Liberman, Giselle and Gürcan, Efe 2015. The neoliberal diet and inequality in the United States. Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 142, p. 47.

    Sadler, Richard C. Arku, Godwin and Gilliland, Jason A. 2015. Local food networks as catalysts for food policy change to improve health and build the economy. Local Environment, Vol. 20, Issue. 9, p. 1103.

    Barker, M. E. and Burridge, J. D. 2014. Nutrition claims in British women's magazines from 1940 to 1955. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Vol. 27, p. 117.

    Meier, Toni Christen, Olaf Semler, Edmund Jahreis, Gerhard Voget-Kleschin, Lieske Schrode, Alexander and Artmann, Martina 2014. Balancing virtual land imports by a shift in the diet. Using a land balance approach to assess the sustainability of food consumption. Germany as an example. Appetite, Vol. 74, p. 20.

    Reynolds, Christian Buckley, Jonathan Weinstein, Philip and Boland, John 2014. Are the Dietary Guidelines for Meat, Fat, Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Appropriate for Environmental Sustainability? A Review of the Literature. Nutrients, Vol. 6, Issue. 6, p. 2251.

    Bogart, W. A. 2013. Law as a Tool in “The War on Obesity”: Useful Interventions, Maybe, But, First, What's the Problem?. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Vol. 41, Issue. 1, p. 28.

    Comans, Tracy A Whitty, Jennifer A Hills, Andrew P Kendall, Elizabeth Turkstra, Erika Gordon, Louisa G Byrnes, Josh M and Scuffham, Paul A 2013. The cost-effectiveness and consumer acceptability of taxation strategies to reduce rates of overweight and obesity among children in Australia: study protocol. BMC Public Health, Vol. 13, Issue. 1,

    Davis, George C. and You, Wen 2013. Estimates of returns to scale, elasticity of substitution, and the thrifty food plan meal poverty rate from a direct household meal production function. Food Policy, Vol. 43, p. 204.

    Franck, Caroline Grandi, Sonia M. and Eisenberg, Mark J. 2013. Taxing Junk Food to Counter Obesity. American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 103, Issue. 11, p. 1949.

    Moodie, Marj Sheppard, Lauren Sacks, Gary Keating, Catherine and Flego, Anna 2013. Cost-Effectiveness of Fiscal Policies to Prevent Obesity. Current Obesity Reports, Vol. 2, Issue. 3, p. 211.

    Thomas, Bryan and Gostin, Lawrence O. 2013. Tackling the Global NCD Crisis: Innovations in Law and Governance. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Vol. 41, Issue. 1, p. 16.

    Claro, Rafael M. Levy, Renata B. Popkin, Barry M. and Monteiro, Carlos A. 2012. Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Taxes in Brazil. American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 102, Issue. 1, p. 178.

    Etilé, Fabrice 2012. La taxation nutritionnelle comme outil de santé publique : justifications et effets attendus. Cahiers de Nutrition et de Diététique, Vol. 47, Issue. 1, p. 25.

    Giriūnienė, Gintarė 2012. Riebalų mokesčio perspektyvos Lietuvoje: teorinis aspektas. Verslas: teorija ir praktika, Vol. 13, Issue. 2, p. 116.

    Jou, Judy and Techakehakij, Win 2012. International application of sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxation in obesity reduction: Factors that may influence policy effectiveness in country-specific contexts. Health Policy, Vol. 107, Issue. 1, p. 83.


Taxing food: implications for public health nutrition

  • Martin Caraher (a1) and Gill Cowburn (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 January 2007

To set out a policy analysis of food taxes as a way of influencing food consumption and behaviour.


The study draws on examples of food taxes from the developed world imposed at national and local levels. Studies were identified from a systemised search in six databases with criteria designed to identity articles of policy relevance.


The dominant approach identified from the literature was the imposition of food taxes on food to raise general revenue, such as Value Added Tax in the European Union. Food taxes can be applied in various ways, ranging from attempts to directly influence behaviour to those which collect taxes for identified campaigns on healthy eating through to those applied within closed settings such as schools. There is a case for combining taxes of unhealthy foods with subsidies of healthy foods. The evidence from the literature concerning the use and impact of food taxes on food behaviour is not clear and those cases identified are mainly retrospective descriptions of the process. Many food taxes have been withdrawn after short periods of time due to industry lobbying.

Conclusions for policy

Small taxes with the clear purpose of promoting the health of key groups, e.g. children, are more likely to receive public support. The focus of many tax initiatives is unclear; although they are generally aimed at consumers, another focus could be food manufacturers, using taxes and subsidies to encourage the production of healthier foods, which could have an effect at a population level. Further consideration needs to be given to this aspect of food taxes. Taxing food (and subsidies) can influence food behaviour within closed systems such as schools and the workplace.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Taxing food: implications for public health nutrition
      Your Kindle email address
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Taxing food: implications for public health nutrition
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Taxing food: implications for public health nutrition
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Email
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

9D Ashton . Food advertising and childhood obesity. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 2004; 97(2): 51–2.

17T Marshall . Exploring a fiscal food policy: the case of diet and ischaemic heart disease. British Medical Journal 2000; 320(7230): 301–5.

18SA French , RW Jeffery , M Story , P Hannan , P Snyder . A pricing strategy to promote low-fat snack choices through vending machines. American Journal of Public Health 1997; 87(5): 849–51.

26D Cutler , E Glaeser , J Shapiro . Why have Americans become More Obese? Research Working Paper 9446 [online]. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economics, 2003. Available at Accessed 13 July 2004.

36JB McKinlay , LD Marceau . Upstream health public policy: lessons from the battle of tobacco. International Journal of Health Services 2000; 30(1): 4969.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
  • EISSN: 1475-2727
  • URL: /core/journals/public-health-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *