TaxRx: Ultra-Processed Foods, Added Sugar, and the Social Cost of Obesity

Courtney Baltz


Obesity rates continue to increase, in part, due to the overconsumption of ultra-processed foods containing high quantities of added sugar. Without federal government intervention through effective tax policies that focus on health, rather than healthcare, there will be no end to this debilitating disease. Although many tax policies have sought to curb obesity rates by taxing the added sugar in sugar-sweetened beverages, these measures have been piecemeal.

This Article argues for a federal tax to be levied on the added sugar in ultra-processed foods. This tax encompasses the ideals of a carbon tax by causing the manufacturer to bear the burden of the tax and thus reformulate their products to decrease the levels of added sugar present in ultra-processed foods. Taxing the added sugar in ultra-processed foods is not only the best solution for combating the obesity epidemic but also the most effective prescription to achieve sustained transformation in the food industry.