Study examines how three decades of U.S. policies define junk food for taxation and other regulations.
How is “junk food” defined for food policies like taxes? A combination of food category, processing, and nutrients can determine which foods should be subject to health-related policies, according to a new analysisexamining three decades of U.S. food policies by researchers at the NYU School of Global Public Health and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts.
Junk food—a term that typically describes sweet or salty snacks and desserts with low nutritional value—makes up 15% of all calories consumed in the United States.
“There is a growing recognition that an unhealthy diet stems from overconsumption of what we colloquially refer to as ‘junk food,’ ” said Jennifer Pomeranz, assistant professor of public health policy and management at NYU School of Global Public Health and the first author of the study, published in the journal Milbank Quarterly. “However, public health efforts to address junk food are hindered by a lack of a uniform method to define junk food for policy purposes.”
One policy example where a definition for junk food is needed is a junk food tax, which raises the price of such products to reduce consumption and generate revenue for other programs to improve the nutrition and health of communities in need. Previous research by NYU and Tufts shows that taxes on junk food are administratively and legally feasible.