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Issue of high consumption of HFSS foods in India UPSC NOTE

 issue of high consumption of HFSS foods in India

  • The consumption of High Fat Sugar Salt (HFSS) foods is one of the major risk factors to a host of health issues that include obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure

  • World Bank report of 2019, worldwide, 70% of all overweight and obese people live in Low- and Middle-Income Countries.

  •  A 55% rise in rural areas across the globe, dispelling the perception that overweight/obesity is only a problem in high-income countries and urban and affluent communities

  • The Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) burden in India has skyrocketed from 38% in 1990 to 65% in 2019. 

  • The global burden of diseases study shows that annually, 1.2 million deaths in India can be attributed to dietary risks alone. 

  • The economic impact of overweight and obesity in India was estimated at $23 billion in 2017

  • If unattended, this is likely to rise to $480 billion by 2060.

  • The ultra-processed food sector in India witnessed a compounded annual growth rate of 13.4% between 2011 and 2021

  • As the world’s largest producer and consumer of sugar in 2022, the country has seen an alarming surge in consumption of HFSS foods

  • About 50%-60% of edible sugar, salt and fat produced in India is consumed by the processed food industry

  • Sales of snacks and soft drinks have tripled over the past decade.

  • This not only poses severe health risks but also impacts productivity and economic growth, necessitating urgent interventions to curtail the rising consumption of these products.

  • There is a global trend of utilising fiscal measures to combat obesity

  • Taxation is considered to be an effective means to reduce the consumption of these products as most consumers are price responsive towards them. 

  • While taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is far more wide and used in more than 60 countries.

Implementation of a dedicated tax on HFSS foods 

  • The imperative for taxing HFSS arises from significant market failures associated with their consumption, contributing to negative externalities and internalities

  • Negative externalities manifest as societal costs in the form of increased health-care expenditures. 

  • The escalation of diabetes and obesity due to increased HFSS consumption leads to external costs imposed on society.

  • Substantial health-care expenditures, borne through elevated taxes to finance public health insurance such as the Ayushman Bharat Yojana.

  • Taxes can offer a targeted and effective means to curb detrimental consumption habits, thereby reducing societal burdens. 

  • Implementing such taxes has shown promise in various countries, demonstrating a reduction in the purchase of unhealthy items.

  • Unlike the taxation of other sin goods such as tobacco and alcohol.

  • The HFSS taxation need not be viewed as a means for raising revenue.

  • It should be seen as a fiscal tool to incentivise the industry to reformulate the products more in favour of healthier alternatives and for people to reorganise their food consumption basket in favour of a healthier diet

Global trend

  • A recent study on South Africa’s Health Promotion Levy showed that there were larger relative reductions in purchases of taxable beverages among lower socio-economic status (SES) households compared with reductions observed in higher SES households, making such taxes non-regressive. 

  • Tax rates need to be differentiated based on the nutritional quality of the food so as to incentivise product reformulations

  • It is possible to have a GST system with HFSS foods in the highest rate structure while their healthier alternatives.


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Issue of high consumption of HFSS foods in India UPSC NOTE
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