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September 3, 2014

The Real Cost of Food: Can Taxes and Subsidies Improve Public Health?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Department of Economics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • 3New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2014;312(9):889-890. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.8232

Suboptimal diet quality is among the leading factors associated with death and disability in the United States1 and globally.2 Strategies to address suboptimal diet focus on nutrition education through dietary guidelines and food package labeling. However, this approach places responsibility for healthier diets on an individual’s ability to make informed choices rather than addressing the complex, powerful environmental determinants of dietary habits. Not surprisingly, this strategy has fallen short, as demonstrated by the increasing rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related illness.

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