Mexico’s 8 percent tax on high-calorie snacks has been successful in reducing junk food purchases, but only by a small amount and only among poor and middle-class households, a study said.
The report published in the online journal PLOS-Medicine showed an average reduction of 5.1 percent in purchases of items subject to the tax, which was implemented in 2014. The reduction equaled only about 25 grams (0.88 ounces) per month per person.
Poorer households bought 10.2 percent less junk food, while medium-income households bought 5.8 percent less, according to bar code analyses based of consumer-tracking data. Higher-income shoppers showed no impact at all from the new taxes. The tax applies to processed foods having more than 275 calories per 100 grams of product.
The study did not indicate whether families reduced calorie intake, bought healthier foods or simply switched to cheaper street food — important factors for Mexico, which is plagued with high obesity rates.
The study was conducted by researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Public Health and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who said future studies “should explore how these shifts are linked to changes in the nutritional quality of the overall diet.”