An umbrella review of the effectiveness of fiscal and pricing policies on food and non-alcoholic beverages to improve health

Type Article

Journal Article


Barry LE, Kee F, Woodside J, Clarke M, Cawley J, Doherty E, Crealey GE, Duggan J, O'Neill C.

Year of publication



Obes Rev







Poor quality diets represent major risk factors for the global burden of disease. Modeling studies indicate a potential for diet-related fiscal and pricing policies (FPs) to improve health. There is real-world evidence (RWE) that such policies can change behavior; however, the evidence regarding health is less clear. We conducted an umbrella review of the effectiveness of FPs on food and non-alcoholic beverages in influencing health or intermediate outcomes like consumption. We considered FPs applied to an entire population within a jurisdiction and included four systematic reviews in our final sample. Quality appraisal, an examination of excluded reviews, and a literature review of recent primary studies assessed the robustness of our results. Taxes and, to some extent, subsidies are effective in changing consumption of taxed/subsidized items; however, substitution is likely to occur. There is a lack of RWE supporting the effectiveness of FPs in improving health but this does not mean that they are ineffective. FPs may be important for improving health but their design is critical. Poorly designed FPs may fail to improve health and could reduce support for such policies or be used to support their repeal. More high-quality RWE on the impact of FPs on health is needed.