Food prices: Local, provincial and territorial taxation of healthy foods

Learn how local, provincial and territorial governments can increase healthy eating by minimizing taxes on healthy foods

Inside this healthy eating policy pack

Minimize taxes on healthy foods

Issue

Food prices

Action

Minimize taxes on healthy foods 1,2,3,4

  • Taxes on healthy foods are minimized to encourage healthy food choices 1,2,3,4

Degree of policy adoption*

Provinces and territories: HIGH
31 Canadian municipalities:** HIGH

Current action(s) in Canada

Provinces, territories and 31 Canadian municipalities**

Adoption of evidence-informed policy action related to minimizing taxes on healthy foods across provinces, territories and municipalities is high, as the federal Excise Tax Act 5 exempts taxes on basic groceries. Certain categories of foodstuffs, for example, carbonated beverages, candies and confectionery, and snack foods are taxable.

In addition, in Ontario, prepared foods sold for under a total cost of $4.00 are exempt from the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), however, there is no requirement for the prepared foods to be healthy.

Opportunities for action

Taxation policies could be strengthened by implementing taxation of unhealthy foods or removing taxes on healthy prepared foods.6

* Levels of adoption:  LOW = very few jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action; MEDIUM = some, but not all jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action; HIGH = most jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action.

** Prevention Policies Directory captures information for 31 Canadian municipalities (18 largest municipalities in Canada, and at least 1-2 largest municipalities in all other provinces/territories).


References

1 Vanderlee L, Goorang S, Karbasy K, Schermel A, L’Abbe M. Creating healthier food environments in Canada: Current policies and priority actions – Summary report. Toronto; University of Toronto, 2017.

2 World Cancer Research Fund International. NOURISHING policy framework. Retrieved from: https://www.wcrf.org/int/policy/nourishing/our-policy-framework-promote-healthy-diets-reduce-obesity

3 World Cancer Research Fund International. (2009). Policy recommendations. Retrieved from: https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/cancer-prevention-recommendations

4 World Health Organization (2013). Global action plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases: https://www.who.int/nmh/events/ncd_action_plan/en/

5 Government of Canada. (2007). Basic groceries. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/forms-publications/publications/4-3/basic-groceries.html

6 Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (APCCP). (2018). Alberta’s Nutrition Report Card on Healthy Food Environments for Children and Youth. Retrieved from: http://abpolicycoalitionforprevention.ca/evidence/albertas-nutrition-report-card/