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 (UPFs) 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, 2) a post-transition scenario where UPF purchasing is highest among low-income households, similar to patterns in Chile. Participants: A population of 1,000 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. Labeling reduced inequities in the pre-transition scenario (i.e., highest UPF purchasing among the highest socioeconomic 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.
- complex systems
- Food policy
- social determinants of health
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Nutrition and Dietetics
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health