With a national debate taking shape about the possibility of a national tax on foods with high sweetener content, ISU economists have examined how such a tax would best be applied.
Rather than assessing a tax on these sugary goods as they are taken through the grocery store checkout lines, the research shows that a better way is to tax the food processers on the amount of caloric sweeteners, such as corn syrup and sugar added in processing before the product hits the shelves.
The economists, John Beghin and Helen Jensen, both professors in the Department of Economics, are quick to point out that they are not advocating for or against any tax, but simply researching how and where a possible sweetener tax would be most effective.
"We are not saying. 'To resolve obesity, here is what you should do,'" said Beghin. "In that sense, we are not advocating anything. We are saying, 'Given that you are considering a panoply of tax instruments, and there is a possibility of a soda tax, is there a better way to use that idea?'"
"This is motivated," added Jensen, "by a lot of ideas out there that say we could tax sweetened products. We wanted to see what the effect of such a tax would be and, alternatively, if you imposed a tax on ingredients, what would be the effect of that."
The research, published in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy, shows that if the goal of a sin tax on sweeteners is to reduce calories consumed, lawmakers should consider taxing the inputs instead of the final product.
Assessing the tax at the processing stage allows food processors to reduce the amount of sweeteners they put into their products. Processors will also have incentives to use more of the lesser-taxed artificial sweeteners, and less of the higher-taxed sweeteners that are heavy in sugary products.
These solutions would also raise the price at the store less than a direct tax on the end product, while reducing the calories attributable to the sweetener, according to the study.
"Taxing the processing ingredients makes more sense when compared with taxing the end product," said Beghin. "You can abate the same number of calories without having consumers face such high prices."
Any new tax on sweeteners, even the tax on food inputs proposed by the study, will cause prices to go up. One drawback of any tax on sweetened goods is the regressive nature of that tax.
In economic terms, regressive taxes are those that impact poorer economic groups more than higher ones.
"Since much of these (sweeter) goods are consumed by poorer economic groups," said Beghin, "you may be increasing the cost of calories for poor people."
The study looks only at calories in food. The research does not make any claims about lowering obesity.
The United States' obesity rate has many factors, and the amount of calories consumed is only one, say the economists.
"We are not looking at health aspects," said Jensen. "Just the consumption of calories from sweetened goods and the disruption to the consumer."
The findings of the study fit generally accepted economic principles that say if you want to change a given behavior or economic decision, you should try to find a policy instrument that is closest to the behavior or decision, according to Beghin.
As part of the study, the two collected data from both government and private sources on industrial food inputs.
"We spent quite a bit of time assembling a data set based on published data on what inputs the food industry uses," said Jensen. "So we know that for all the different food sectors, how much sugar and corn syrup go into that industry group's food processing. You'd be amazed to see how much sweetener goes into food processing."
Disclosure: Beghin has been a consultant on sugar matters for the U.S. Government Accountability Office (2001), the Sweetener Users Association (2011), the American Enterprise Institute (2007), and the American Farm Bureau Federation (2004-5).
Dan Kuester | EurekAlert!
How Strong Brands Translate into Money
15.11.2016 | Kühne Logistics University - Wissenschaftliche Hochschule für Logistik und Unternehmensführung
Demographic change depresses tax revenues
04.11.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration
"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...
Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.
Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
16.01.2017 | Information Technology
16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering