Identification of tax options for high fat, sugar, salt foods for the HEALTHEI Project: a mixed-methods study

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


The health economic analysis incorporating effects on labour outcomes, households, environment, and inequalities (HEALTHEI) explores which food taxes would have greatest benefits to health, labour, and work outcomes; household expenditure; environmental sustainability; and inequalities within the UK food system. Work package 1 includes a rapid review and workshops, aiming to explore the effects of price increases in food and non-alcoholic beverages to facilitate the specification of food taxes and research design.

In this mixed-methods study, we first did a rapid review to examine relevant published evidence. A preplanned framework ensured a systematic approach, in which we searched PubMed, HMIC, Scopus, Google, Mintel/Mintel Food and Drink, and Business Source Ultimate for papers published in English from Jan 1, 2010, to Nov 2, 2022. This review was followed by three online workshops (in March, 2023), which used interactive padlets to explore food systems, food taxation policy, tax rationales, and a rapid review infographic. 14 stakeholders from non-governmental organisations (n=10), academia (n=2), the Civil Service (n=1), and a local authority (n=1) took part (gender or ethnicity were not recorded). A stakeholder recruitment grid was developed to ensure representation across public sectors and disciplines of public health, nutrition, environment, and economics.

The rapid review identified six tax options with a broadly positive impact on consumption and health (high fat, high sugar, high salt, “junk food”, sugar-sweetened-beverages, and meats plus sugar-sweetened beverages). It generated five core rationales for a food tax: change consumption, reduce or prevent harm, change product affordability, raise revenue, and industry impact. Using the workshop feedback, health inequalities, economics, ease of implementation and animal welfare were additional key areas for a so-called real-world application of tax. Stakeholders questioned the taxes in the current economic and political climate.

The work highlights the need to develop an impactful food tax option that encompasses the five core rationales identified in the findings. The workshops identified key areas to explore further to understand the feasibility, impact, and logistics of implementing future food taxes. Being unable to deliver workshops in person due to difficulties of participants travelling to London was a limitation. However, switching online allowed for varied and well attended workshops.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S70
JournalThe Lancet
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023


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