Legal and Administrative Feasibility of a Federal Junk Food and Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax to Improve Diet

Jennifer L. Pomeranz, Parke Wilde, Yue Huang, Renata Micha, Dariush Mozaffarian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objectives. To evaluate legal and administrative feasibility of a federal “junk” food (including sugar-sweetened beverages [SSBs]) tax to improve diet. Methods. To assess food definitions and administration models, we systematically searched (1) PubMed (through May 15, 2017) for articles defining foods subject to taxes, and legal and legislative databases as well as online for (2) US federal, state, and tribal junk food tax bills and laws (January 1, 2012–February 28, 2017); SSB taxes (January 1, 2014–February 28, 2017); and international junk food tax laws (as of February 28, 2017); and (3) federal taxing mechanisms and administrative methods (as of February 28, 2017). Results. Articles recommend taxing foods by product category, broad nutrient criteria, specific nutrients or calories, or a combination. US junk food tax bills (n = 6) and laws (n = 3), international junk food laws (n = 2), and US SSB taxes (n = 10) support taxing foods using category-based (n = 8), nutrient-based (n = 1), or combination (n = 12) approaches. Federal taxing mechanisms (particularly manufacturer excise taxes on alcohol) and administrative methods provide informative models. Conclusions. From legal and administrative perspectives, a federal junk food tax appears feasible based on product categories or combination category-plus-nutrient approaches, using a manufacturer excise tax, with additional support for sugar and graduated tax strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-209
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Volume108
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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