Could tax breaks for healthy food sales work better than food taxes?

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Could tax breaks for healthy food sales work better than food taxes?

Related tags: Nutrition

Incentivising the sale of healthy foods at the supermarket checkout could be more effective than food taxation for improving food choices, suggests a letter published in the BMJ.

In a letter to the editor, general practitioner and obesity researcher Dr Ian Lake suggests that tax incentives are likely to be more successful than punitive taxes in changing behaviour. Three-quarters of food sold in the UK is through just five supermarkets and many consumers use loyalty cards that can be used to track food purchases, meaning that changes in shopper behaviour could be easily followed.

Lake suggests that governments could draw up a list of healthy foods and reward supermarkets if they achieve a certain level of sales – although he admits that deciding which foods should be described as ‘healthy’ and which ‘unhealthy’ could prove contentious.

“By judicious use not only of the stick of taxation  on unhealthy foods but also adding a carrot to incentivise sales of healthy food, we can get the best brains in the retail industry to apply themselves to not just making money, but to do so whilst improving the health of the nation,”​ according to Lake.

He also says that while giving tax breaks to supermarkets could cost the exchequer in the short term, in the longer term, steering consumers toward healthier foods could help cut the costs associated with obesity and obesity-related illness.


What do you think? Could supermarket tax incentives help drive healthier choices? Would incentive schemes work better in conjunction with taxes on less healthy options?

Or is taxation entirely the wrong approach?

Have your say in the comments below…

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more



OATVITA, a Frulact company | 27-Jun-2022 | Product Brochure

OATVITA is focused on the development of plant-based concentrated liquid solutions for food and beverage industry. We offer innovative and tailor-made...

Texturising plant-based meat alternatives

Texturising plant-based meat alternatives

Herbafood | 08-Jun-2022 | Technical / White Paper

At Herbafood, we are certain that the shift towards plant-based eating will continue to play a major role in human nutrition.

The power of plant-based - and how color can help

The power of plant-based - and how color can help

EXBERRY® by GNT | 18-May-2022 | Product Presentation

With Coloring Foods, the possibilities for plant-based products are almost limitless. Sustainable, natural and vegan-friendly food and drink is enjoying...

Healthy, delicious and sustainable

Healthy, delicious and sustainable

Döhler – Natural Food & Beverage Ingredients | 21-Mar-2022 | Data Sheet

Discover our comprehensive portfolio of plant-based ingredients which are ideally suited for innovative plant-based applications. Doehler fully understands...

Related suppliers

Follow us


View more