Policy interventions could help consumers sour on sugary sodas and fruit juices.
So-called “sugar taxes” and front-of-package nutrition labels may have a real impact, according to experimental research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity: They result in consumers buying products with fewer calories and less sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
What’s more, applying the tax to 100% fruit juice — whose naturally occurring sugars can rival the sugar content in sweetened drinks — leads to the greatest reductions in calories and sugar purchased, the study found.
‘Many people don’t realize that fruit juice can have just as much sugar, or more, as regular pop.’
“Many people don’t realize that fruit juice can have just as much sugar, or more, as regular pop, and these types of drinks aren’t always included in a tax when evidence shows that maybe they should be,” lead study author Rachel Acton, a Ph.D student at the University of Waterloo, said in a statement.
Acton and her co-authors designed an experimental study involving 3,584 Canadians aged 13 and up. Armed with a $5 budget, study participants went about buying beverages and snack foods with various front-of-package labels and with varying taxes (for example, a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened drinks). Some labels said the product was “high in” sugar, while others listed a nutrition grade from “A” through “E.”
Participants who saw the “high in” warning label bought fewer calories and less sugar, saturated fat and sodium, the study found. Sugar-based taxes led participants to buy beverage products that had up to 18% fewer calories and up to 19% less sugar, compared to people who had no sugar tax. In some instances, it even led them to buy products with lower saturated fat and sodium.