Mexico's household consumption of energy-dense food declines following 2014 nonessential food tax
Purchases of taxed foods declined beyond pre-tax trends following Mexico's 2014 tax on nonessential, energy-dense foods like salty snacks and frozen desserts, according to a survey-based study published as part of PLOS Medicine's special issue on Preventing Diabetes. The study, conducted jointly by collaborators at Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica (National Institute of Public Health) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States, found this shift occurred in low and medium socioeconomic status (SES), but not high SES, households.
In January 2014, Mexico passed an 8% tax on nonessential foods with energy density ?275 kcal/100 g, including salty snacks, chips, cakes, pastries, and frozen desserts. Using a dataset that follows household food purchases over time, Taillie and colleagues examined whether the volume of taxed foods showed greater declines in the post-tax period than would be expected based on purchasing trends prior to the tax (2012-2013). They found that the mean volume of purchases of taxed foods in 2014 declined by 25 g per capita per month (95% confidence interval = -46, -11), or a 5.1% change beyond what would have been expected based on pre-tax trends. This shift was not seen in the purchase of untaxed foods. Low SES households' purchases of taxed foods declined (relative to pre-tax trends) by 10.2% (-44 [-72, -16] g per capita per month) and medium SES households by 5.8% (-28 [-46, -11] g per capita per month), whereas high SES household purchases showed no post-tax shift. There was no corresponding increase in the purchase of untaxed foods.
Key study limitations include the use of self-reported household data, limitation to urban households (which comprise 75% of expenditures), and the lack of a true control group, as the tax was implemented nationally. However, Taillie and colleagues' study provides an early snapshot of overall shifts in food purchasing one year after implementation of the nonessential food tax. The authors state, "[the] results can orient Mexican policymakers, who every year decide on the continuation of the tax, as well as policymakers from others countries currently considering the implementation of taxes on unhealthy foods."
This support comes primarily from Bloomberg Philanthropies (grants to UNC and CINsY INSP), with support from the NIH R01DK108148, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Grant 71698), and the Carolina Population Center and its NIH Center grant (P2C HD0550924). The funders had no role in the study design or the analysis and interpretation of the data. All authors and their institutions reserve intellectual freedom from the funders.
CB, BMP, and LST have declared that no competing interests exist. JAR reported that he has received personal fees from a private company (Tres Montes Lucchetti) for a role as an advisor on the design, implementation and evaluation of an obesity prevention program in primary schools conducted by two Universities in Guadalajara (ITESO and UDG) in the State of Jalisco. JAR also received a research grant from Danone Mexico to study the intake of milk and dairy in Mexico, but received no honorarium.
Batis C, Rivera JA, Popkin BM, Taillie LS (2016) First-Year Evaluation of Mexico's Tax on Nonessential Energy-Dense Foods: An Observational Study. PLoS Med 13(7): e1002057. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002057
Center for Nutrition and Health Research, National Institute of Public Health, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico National Council for Science and Technology CONACYT, Mexico City, Mexico Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health, Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America
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Lindsey Smith Taillie
Research Assistant Professor
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
137 E. Franklin St.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514