Experimental economics shows how food price policies may improve diet while increasing socioeconomic inequalities in nutrition

Darmon N., Lacroix A., Muller L., and Ruffieux B.

Objective: To compare the impact of food price policies on the nutritional quality of food baskets chosen by low-income and medium-income women
Methods: Experimental economics was used to simulate a fruit and vegetable price subsidy (FV policy) and a mixed policy subsidizing healthy products and taxing unhealthy ones(NP policy)Low-income (n=95) and medium–income (n=33) women selected a daily food basket at current prices and then at policy prices. Energy density (ED) and the mean adequacy ratio (MAR) were used as nutritional quality indicators.
Results: At baseline, low-income women selected less healthy baskets than medium–income ones (less fruit and vegetables, more unhealthy products, higher ED, lower MAR). Both policies improved nutritional quality (fruit and vegetable quantities increased, ED decreased, the MAR increased), but the magnitude of the improvement was often lower among lowincome women. For instance, their ED decreased by 5.3% with the FV policy and by 7.3% with the NP policy, whereas decreases of 13.2% and 12.6% respectively were recorded for the medium–income group.
Conclusions: Both policies improved dietary quality, but they increased socioeconomic inequalities in nutrition.

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