Taxation on Ultra-processed Foods to Trim Obesity: Is it Plausible in Canada?


  • Dana Hankinson University of Alberta



As the prevalence of excess body weight has become normalized in Canadian society, this paper argues
for implementation of a sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) and high saturated fat (SF) food taxation in
Canada. These harmful foods and beverages are associated with excess calorie intake, lower nutrient
intake, and a rise in body mass index. As the waistlines of Canadians continue to grow, it is of utmost
importance for obesity and overweight to be externally managed by the government with taxation on
unhealthy substances, and a simultaneous subsidy on healthier alternatives. Potentially pairing SSB/SF
taxation with a fruits and vegetables subsidy could be one of the most effective means of achieving altered
consumption patterns. The purpose is to curb availability of the former, increase consumption of the latter,
and reduce weight gain and the harms that come along with it (e.g. metabolic disease and type II diabetes).
The paper’s analysis focuses on children, adolescents (12-17 years old), and lower socioeconomic status
populations, as these populations are at a higher risk for overweight and obesity and would be most
positively affected by the proposed taxation and subsidy. Briefly outlining the options governments have in
reducing the levels of SSB/SF, questions are posed for future research regarding the area of ultra-processed
food taxations. Finally, notable objections to SSB/SF taxation are considered and alternative methods are
suggested such as income-based subsidy programs, which address inequitable distributions of proposed
taxation on vulnerable groups like children, adolescents, and lower socioeconomic status groups.

Keywords: Canada, fat tax, obesity, subsidy, taxation, ultra-processed foods






Social Sciences & Humanities