Food Politics

Soda Tax, Menu Labels and Market Financing: Is Philly at the Frontier of Nutrition Policy?


As part of his 2011 budget proposal, Mayor Michael Nutter Butter has included a “sugar-sweetened” beverage tax, also known as a “soda tax” that would be the highest in the country - although right now, the only other city that has one is Chicago. Pair this with the new menu labeling laws, also the most rigorous in the nation, and the Fresh Food Financing Initiative, which encourages supermarket development in underserved neighborhoods in Pennsylvania and is a model for a national version and it seems like Philly - the city once labeled the fattest in all the land by Men’s Fitness - is at the forefront of the nutrition and anti-obesity policy. Sorta!

According to the Inky, Nutter’s tax - or as he’s calling it, the “Healthy Philadelphia Initiative” - would be two cents per ounce, twice the penny per ounce currently being considered in New York (Chicago levies a 3 percent tax on all sugared and artificially sweetened beverages; Nutter’s tax would exclude artificially sweetened beverages.). And while it’s being positioned as an anti-obesity measure, it could also be a substantial revenue source to help fill the massive hole in the city budget, if it actually passes. The PBJ tallies up the numbers:

The tax would roll in January 2011 and generate $38.6 million in revenue the first year and $77.2 million per year thereafter, a portion of which would be used to battle the city’s obesity rate and promote healthier living, officials said. The city would spend $20 million from the initiative beginning in July 2011 to promote healthy eating and physical activity in the city, where 64 percent of adults and 57 of children were overweight or obese as of 2008.

To no one’s surprise, the Pennsylvania Beverage Association is not happy about any of this and has paired up with the Teamsters, who are ticked off too, believing the tax will lead to a loss of jobs.

It’s likely going to affect bar tabs as well - in addition to bottles, fountain syrups will be taxed.

Nutter proposes 2-cent-per-ounce sweet-drink tax [Inquirer]
Nutter proposing beverage tax, trash fee to balance Phila. budget [PBJ]

Related: Legally Mandated Menu Labeling Starts Today [Grub Street]
First Lady Sips a Smoothie in North Philly [Grub Street]

Soda Tax, Menu Labels and Market Financing: Is Philly at the Frontier of