AMES, Iowa – It’s an idea floated by several states and cities across the U.S over the years: tax sugary beverages higher, and curb obesity as a result. Voters in Berkeley, CA recently made their city the first in the nation to impose such a tax, but researchers at Iowa State University are questioning whether this method will produce the desired result.
Two economics professors from ISU – John Beghin and Helen Jensen – participated in a 2011 study published in the Contemporary Economic Policy journal. The researchers and a colleague from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Ruth Litchfield, are bringing the study back into the conversation for Iowans as places across the country look at options such as a “soda tax” to curb obesity rates.
“Targeting only soft drinks seems a little bit excessive. You could also target the candy section, or many other sections of the store, in which the food is pretty unhealthy,” Beghin said in an ISU news release. “If you tax the inputs, you would have a fairly strong response from food processors to abate the caloric sweeteners in their products.”
The faculty members argue perhaps taxing the food processors of sugar or other sweeteners added to foods and beverages would have a greater chance at reducing mass consumption of these caloric sweeteners; however, the researchers admit the food processors could then charge a higher price for their products if it would cost more to make them without these sweetening products.