Objective: Fiscal policies may form a solution in improving dietary intake. This study aimed to examine the effectiveness of varying taxing and subsiding schemes to stimulate healthier food purchases.
Methods: A randomized controlled trial with three levels of price reduction on healthy foods (no; 25%; 50%)×three levels of price increase on unhealthy foods (5%; 10%; 25%) factorial design was used. 150 participants were randomized into one of nine conditions and were asked to purchase groceries at a web-based supermarket. Data were collected in the Netherlands in January-February 2010 and analyzed using analysis of covariance.
Results: Subjects receiving 50% discount purchased significantly more healthy foods than subjects receiving no (mean difference=6.62 items, p<0.01) or 25% discount (mean difference=4.87 items, p<0.05). Moreover, these subjects purchased more vegetables (mean difference=821 g;p<0.05 compared to no discount). However, participants with the highest discount also purchased significantly more calories. No significant effects of the price increases on unhealthy foods were found.
Conclusion: Price decreases are effective in stimulating healthy food purchases, but the proportion of healthy foods remains unaffected. Price increases up to 25% on unhealthier products do not significantly affect food purchases. Future studies are important to validate these results in real supermarkets and across different countries.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.