24 Oct 2013

Food taxes could have positive effect on health - study

7:22 am on 24 October 2013

A new study has found food taxes and subsidies are more likely to benefit Maori and low income families.

The research, lead by the University of Auckland's National Institute for Health Innovation, looked at how consumers respond to food price changes, according to income and ethnicity.

The paper's lead author, Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu, says Maori and low income households are more responsive to changes in the price of food.

She says taxes on unhealthy food and subsidies on healthy alternatives could have a positive effect on their buying habits and diets, and therefore on their health.

Ms Ni Mhurchu says the next stage of the study will be to model the effects of different food pricing policies, such as a salt tax or the removal of GST on fruit and vegetables.

She says she hopes it will help to ignite discussion on the issue.

Ms Ni Mhurchu says researchers will be conducting interviews with people and organisations to discuss how possible it would be to implement these policies.

She says she hopes that will bring the results to the Government's attention and start a debate on the issue.

Ms Ni Mhurchu says there needs to be a lot more discussion around food pricing policies as research around the world suggests this may be one of the most effective and equitable ways to improve diets and health.