Article Text

Scaling up food pricing policies in the Pacific: a guide to action
  1. Erica Reeve1,
  2. Amerita Ravuvu2,
  3. Ellen Johnson3,
  4. Selai Nasiga4,
  5. Tom Brewer5,
  6. Sarah Mounsey3,
  7. Anne Marie Thow3
  1. 1 Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition (GLOBE), Institute for Health Transformation, School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2 Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Prevention and Control Programme, Public Health Division, Pacific Community, Suva, Fiji
  3. 3 Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney Menzies Centre for Health Policy, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  4. 4 Independent consultant, Commonwealth Secretariat, London, UK
  5. 5 Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Ms Erica Reeve; e.reeve{at}deakin.edu.au

Abstract

There are calls for governments around the world to adopt pricing policies, including taxes, subsidies and price controls that ensure all people have access to, and can afford, healthy diets. Despite the strong potential of pricing policies to promote healthy diets and to support a post-COVID-19 recovery, there are gaps in evidence with regard to ‘how’ to design and apply effective food taxes in practice, and countries report challenges in navigating the different policy options.

In this practice piece, we examine the global evidence for food taxes with a view to identifying practical lessons for policy design, adoption and implementation, using the Pacific Islands Region as a case study. We present a systematic resource that draws on locally generated evidence, and a Pacific conceptualisation of healthy diets, to address considerations in setting the tax base, rate and mechanisms, and to ensure tax targets are clearly identifiable within national tax and administrative systems. Health and Finance collaboration at the country level could ensure tax design addresses concerns for the impacts of food taxes on employment, economics and equity, as well as position food taxes as an opportunity to fund revenue shortfalls faced by governments following the COVID-19 pandemic. We demonstrate a need to review other policies for consistency with national health objectives to ensure that countries avoid inadvertently undermining health taxes, for example, by ensuring that foods with known non-communicable disease risk are not being price protected or promoted.

  • Health policy
  • Nutrition

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information.

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Footnotes

  • Handling editor Seye Abimbola

  • Twitter @erica_reeve

  • Contributors ER, AR and AMT conceptualised the study. Data collection and analysis was undertaken by ER, TB and EJ. ER drafted the manuscript and AR, EJ, SN, TB, SM and AMT were involved in review of the manuscript. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

  • Funding ER, AMT, EJ and TB were partially supported by ACIAR Pacific Food Systems project FIS/2018/155. AR is employed at the institution The Pacific Community (SPC) and SN is employed by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.