A Scottish study finds that taxing fatty foods could help tackle the climate crisis

But research warns that it is unlikely that a single policy can achieve both nutrition and climate goals.

The study, based on analysis of secondary data collected from 3,260 households in Scotland across 18 food categories, aimed to understand the impact of a tax on HFSS food purchases.

Read more: Climate change: Scottish researchers publish new map

The inquiry asked either to tax all HFSS products while leaving the prices of other foods unchanged, or to tax HFSS products while subsidizing fruits and vegetables with the revenue generated.

The investigation found that the imposition of taxes on HFSS products led to a decrease in their consumption due to increasing prices.

Specifically, a 10% tax on HFSS food groups combined with subsidizing fruits and vegetables from tax revenue resulted in a 5-9% decrease in HFSS consumption and an 11% and 7% increase in vegetable and fruit consumption, respectively.

When tax revenue was used to subsidize fruits and vegetables, greenhouse gas emissions increased by 2%, while emissions decreased by 3% when only HFSS food groups were taxed.

Read more: SNP ministers said it was time to talk about eating less meat and dairy

The study also found that taxing HFSS without existing subsidy policies could have a more regressive impact on consumers than if fruits and vegetables were subsidized.

Dr. Wisdom Dogbe, from the University of Aberdeen’s Rowett Institute, who led the study, said: “This study shows us that there are very real trade-offs between achieving nutritional, welfare and environmental goals.”

“In the future, this research can be taken into account in the ongoing discussions about banning promotions on HFSS.

“If there were no promotions for these products and prices naturally increased as a result, we think this could be beneficial as it could potentially encourage consumers to reduce their purchases.”

“Ultimately, our research highlights the complex interplay between nutrition, welfare and environmental objectives when implementing HFSS tax policy. The choice of policy scenario adopted by the government would have to depend on national objectives and priorities.”

In his recommendations to the Scottish Government to meet its climate targets, the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) legislative adviser has set out recommendations on meat and dairy consumption.

It said the government should “take low-cost, low-regret measures” and “promote a 20% shift away from meat consumption by 2030 and an increase to 35% by 2050”.

The organization also called for “a 20 percent shift away from dairy by 2030 to demonstrate leadership in the public sector while improving health.”

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