[Answered] Evaluate the effectiveness of implementing a health tax on high-fat, sugar, and salt (HFSS) foods in combating non-communicable diseases.

Introduction: Define HFSS foods

Body: Highlight the effectiveness of health tax on HFSS foods

Conclusion: Way forward

The Ministry of Women and Child Development defines HFSS foods as any food or drink, packaged or not, that is high in energy (calories), high in fat (saturated fatty acids), high in salt, low in dietary fibre, and low in proteins, vitamins, phytochemicals, minerals, and other nutrients. Regular or excessive consumption of these foods is known to have detrimental effects on health.

Effectiveness of Health Tax on HFSS Foods in India for NCDs

  • Reduced consumption: Taxing HFSS foods may result in lower consumption, particularly among price-conscious people. Research has indicated that tax-related price hikes can impact consumer behaviour by encouraging them to make healthier choices and eat fewer unhealthy goods.
  • Better Eating Practices: By limiting the intake of HFSS foods, people are more likely to choose fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as healthy substitutes. This change in eating patterns may help to lower the prevalence of NCDs and improve overall health outcomes.
  • Revenue Generation: Public health programs like nutrition education, healthy food subsidies, or increased access to healthcare services can be funded using the money raised by HFSS levies. This may help initiatives aimed at managing and preventing NCDs even more.

Challenges in implementation

  • Impact on Low-Income Groups: Affordable, nutritious alternatives may be limited in India, potentially disproportionately affecting low-income families who rely on processed foods.
  • Tax Design and Implementation: The tax structure needs careful design to avoid loopholes and ensure effectiveness. Clear definitions of HFSS and differentiated tax rates based on nutritional content could be helpful.
  • Administrative Challenges: Effective implementation requires strong enforcement mechanisms to prevent tax evasion.


Nutrition literacy should aim to educate consumers about adopting healthier eating habits and making lifestyle modifications. Introducing front-of-pack food labeling would increase consumer awareness regarding the nutritional composition of processed foods, highlighting those with high levels of salt, fat, or sugar. The NITI Aayog has recommended implementing a 20-30% health tax, in addition to GST, on high-fat, sugar, and salt (HFSS) foods. Enhancing the allocation of vegetables in government Anganwadi and school noon meal schemes would play a crucial role in promoting healthier eating practices and enhancing nutrition. Furthermore, expanding the variety of foods available through the Public Distribution System (PDS) would contribute significantly to ensuring nutrition security.

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