JavaScript Required

The P4H website is designed to perform best with Javascript enabled. Please enable it in your browser. If you need help with this, check out

Colombia introduces junk food tax - P4H Network

Colombia introduces junk food tax

Colombia has implemented a tax on ultra-processed foods, becoming one of the first countries in the Americas to take such a measure to tackle obesity, diabetes, and other lifestyle diseases.

The Lancet reports that Colombia is one of the first to tax food high in salt and saturated fat to reduce obesity and other diseases.

56·4% of the population of Colombia is overweight, according to the health ministry, and nearly a third of adults have high blood pressure. Cardiovascular diseases account for nearly a quarter of annual deaths. A 2016 report published by the health ministry found that the country spends more than US$6 billion a year on treatment for diseases associated with poor diet, and 13% of annual diabetes deaths are attributed to the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks.

The new tax was included in a wider reform that passed into law in December 2022, seeking to reduce the burden of obesity and other diseases on Colombia’s health system, while also bringing in revenue in a country that manages a fiscal deficit.

“This isn’t to take your money, it is so that you choose healthier foodstuffs and improve the health of the Colombian people”, Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who oversaw the law’s passage, wrote at the beginning of November, when it came into effect.

The tax is being implemented gradually, beginning at 10%, before rising to 15% in 2024 and 20% in 2025, and targets foods that are high in salt and saturated fat, as well as industrially manufactured prepackaged foods.

Norman Maldonado, who heads Proesa, a think tank focused on health economics at the Instituto Colombiano de Estudios Superiores de Incolda University in Cali, Colombia says “The tax approved in Colombia intends to correct that problem, and in that sense, it is a mechanism that increases health, financial and social protection for the poorest in the country, and it is that population that benefits most from the tax.”