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 a
|Contact: Dan Kuester|
Iowa State University