Evaluating New Chilean National Regulations on the Food Supply
In Chile, economic growth has been accompanied by higher consumption of ultra-processed foods and foods high in refined sugars, saturated fats, and salt. More than half of total food purchases in 2007 were in this category, with low-income households spending some 68% of their food budgets on processed foods. Links to increased obesity across gender and age groups have been established. By 2010, obesity in adults had reached 67%, while type 2 diabetes increased from 6% to 9%. Similar trends in obesity were observed in children from primary public schools. In response to the situation, the Chilean government passed a series of regulations to improve the dietary intake of the population. An 8% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages was introduced in 2014, to be followed in 2016 by front-of-package warning labels and food marketing controls for television shows watched by children, with regulations becoming increasingly stringent over the next three years. This staggered implementation provides an ideal opportunity to assess the impact of these regulations. The overarching goal of this project is to understand how these policy interventions affect purchase and consumption of both regulated and non-regulated packaged foods and beverages. This includes the shift away from ultra-processed food and sugar-sweetened beverages toward fresh and minimally processed foods. The research will provide a baseline and one year of data on food-related marketing exposure and attitudes, as well as on dietary intake for a new cohort of 4-year-old children, as well as an existing cohort of 12-year-olds from low- and middle-income families. Perceptions and attitudes of mothers toward the regulations will also be assessed. The project will lay the groundwork for a more extensive and longer-term evaluation to guide implementation of ongoing and future food-related taxes and regulations. It will inform other Latin American governments considering similar approaches. IDRC is partnering with the Corporactión para Apoyo de la Investigación Cientifica en Nutrición on this project.