Healthy eating policies

Food prices

Food policies lower the consumer cost of food and help make healthy eating choices easier, cheaper, and more accessible.

  • Price discounts and subsidies increases fruits, vegetables, healthy snacks, and healthy beverage consumption. (infographic?)
  • Price increases and taxes reduces unhealthy food, sugar-added foods, and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.
  • Government incentive interventions for low-income families, such as government funding to priority schools and individual cash transfers, increases fruit and vegetable consumption and decreases sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, especially among adolescents.
  • Minimum price interventions are needed to achieve behaviour modification.
  • There is a need for primary studies to collect and report data for diverse populations in differing settings and contexts including language barriers, precarious work situations, and/or low technical skills in accessing subsidy programs.

Provincial/territorial healthy eating policy analysis 

  • The degree of policy adoption is MEDIUM – most provinces and territories have policies related to food prices, including a nation-wide tax exemption for certain groceries and prepared food items.
  • Policies that regulate food prices specific to healthy eating and cancer prevention do not exist in any province/territory.
  • The federal Excise Tax Act applies federal, harmonized, and/or provincial/territorial sales tax to some unhealthy foods, such as soft drinks or fruit drinks with less than 25% natural fruit juice, candy, potato chips, and packaged processed foods.
  • In Ontario, prepared foods sold for under $4.00 are exempt from HST.
  • To deter individuals from choosing sugary beverages, Newfoundland and Labrador has implemented a sales tax on these products designed to disincentivize unhealthy foods and promote healthy food purchases.
  • Food affordability has been addressed through several provincial policies:

Municipal healthy eating policy analysis

Opportunities for action

  • The medium level of attention given to food price policies is a promising start, however, more can be done to increase healthy eating across provincial/territorial and municipal jurisdictions.
  • Future policy direction could include:
    • Expanding policies that impose a tax on unhealthy food and beverage which would encourage healthier choices. However, a widespread adoption of ‘junk food’ taxes must balance health with equity considerations for low-income populations and those that are experiencing food insecurity.
    • Implementing additional policies that govern food prices – including those that subsidize healthy food options – are recommended as they can make healthy eating more accessible for people in Canada.

face maskCOVID-19

The pandemic has reversed two decades of improved nutrition and food security globally, with children being particularly vulnerable to negative impacts.1

  1. World Bank. (2021). Food and Nutrition under the COVID-19 Crisis: Lessons for Protecting the Vulnerable and Facilitating Recovery.