‘Traffic-light’ Nutrition Labeling and ‘Junk-food’ Tax: A Modeled Comparison of Cost-effectiveness for Obesity Prevention

G. Sacks, J.L. Veerman, M. Moodie and B. Swinburn

Purpose: Compared the cost-effectiveness of conservative scenarios for two commonly proposed policy-based interventions: front-of-pack ‘traffic-light’ (ed. green [good], yellow [caution] & red [bad]) nutrition labeling and a tax on unhealthy foods (‘junk-food’ tax).

Conclusions: Both interventions resulted in reduced mean weight (traffic-light labelling: 1.3 kg (95% uncertainty interval (UI): 1.2; 1.4); ‘junk-food’ tax: 1.6 kg (95% UI: 1.5; 1.7)); and DALYs averted (traffic-light labelling: 45 100 (95% UI: 37 700; 60 100); ‘junk-food’ tax: 559 000 (95% UI: 459 500; 676 000)). Cost outlays were AUD81 million (95% UI: 44.7; 108.0) for traffic-light labelling and AUD18 million (95% UI: 14.4; 21.6) for ‘junk-food’ tax. Cost-effectiveness analysis showed both interventions were ‘dominant’ (effective and cost-saving). Policy-based population-wide interventions such as traffic-light nutrition labelling and taxes on unhealthy foods are likely to offer excellent ‘value for money’ as obesity prevention measures.

IN PLAIN ENGLISH: Placing green, yellow and red labels on food products can have a positive effect on the purchase and consequent consumption of better food choices..