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Prev Med. 2012 May;54(5):323-30. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.02.009. Epub 2012 Feb 23.

Introducing taxes, subsidies or both: the effects of various food pricing strategies in a web-based supermarket randomized trial.

Author information

  • 1Department of Health Sciences and the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. wilma.waterlander@vu.nl

Abstract

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.

PMID:
22387008
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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