Potential impacts of policies to reduce purchasing of ultra-processed foods in Mexico at different stages of the social transition: an agent-based modelling approach

Brent A. Langellier, Ivana Stankov, Ross A. Hammond, Usama Bilal, Amy H. Auchincloss, Tonatiuh Barrientos-Gutierrez, Leticia De Oliveira Cardoso, Ana V. Diez Roux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: To develop a simulation framework for assessing how combinations of taxes, nutrition warning labels and advertising levels could affect purchasing of ultra-processed foods (UPF) in Latin American countries and to understand whether policies reinforce or reduce pre-existing social disparities in UPF consumption. Design: We developed an agent-based simulation model using international evidence regarding the effect of price, nutrition warning labels and advertising on UPF purchasing. Setting: We estimated policy effects in scenarios representing two stages of the 'social transition' in UPF purchasing: (1) a pre-transition scenario, where UPF purchasing is higher among high-income households, similar to patterns in Mexico; and (2) a post-transition scenario where UPF purchasing is highest among low-income households, similar to patterns in Chile. Participants: A population of 1000 individual agents with levels of age, income, educational attainment and UPF purchasing similar to adult women in Mexico. Results: A 20 % tax would decrease purchasing by 24 % relative to baseline in both the pre- and post-transition scenarios, an effect that is similar in magnitude to that of a nutrition warning label policy. A 50 % advertising increase or decrease had a comparatively small effect. Nutrition warning labels were most effective among those with higher levels of educational attainment. Labelling reduced inequities in the pre-transition scenario (i.e. highest UPF purchasing among the highest socio-economic group) but widened inequities in the post-transition scenario. Conclusions: Effective policy levers are available to reduce UPF purchasing, but policymakers should anticipate that equity impacts will differ depending on existing social patterns in UPF purchasing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1711-1719
Number of pages9
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Volume25
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 13 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Complex systems
  • Diet
  • Food policy
  • Simulation
  • Social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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