Researchers from Otago, Auckland and Melbourne Universities

Food taxes coupled with fruit and veg subsidies can bring major health gains

According to researchers from Otago, Auckland and Melbourne Universities, a consumer tax on the saturated fat, salt and sugar content of food, accompanied by a 20 per cent subsidy on fruit and vegetables, would bring major benefits for the health sector.

The researchers have published estimates of the health gains and cost savings to New Zealand’s health system which a combined tax and subsidy scheme would bring. Their research is published today in the international journal The Lancet Public Health.

Lead author Professor Tony Blakely, who is an Honorary Professor in Public Health at the University of Otago, and Professor at the University of Melbourne, says there would be large potential health gains from such a scheme, which would be cost neutral for consumers.

"They range from 212 health-adjusted life years gained per 1,000 New Zealanders for the fruit and vegetable subsidy, up to 361 health-adjusted life years for the saturated fat tax, 375 health-adjusted life years for a salt tax, and 581 health-adjusted life years for the sugar tax."

"A tax on sugar alone could save the health system NZ$14.7 billion over the lifetime of New Zealand’s 2011 population."

Voxy.co.nz reported on Professor Blakely saying that with obesity being one of the leading causes of health loss and health system costs, the health gains from a tax and subsidy regime would be larger than those projected for a 10 per cent a year increase in tobacco tax between 2011 and 2025.


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