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Colombia’s New Unhealthy Food Tax Reform


Unhealthy food in Colombia is having its taxes raised
Sugary beverages are among the food and drinks that will be affected by the tax raise. Credit: A.P / Colombia One

Colombia will increase the tax on unhealthy food and beverages once again. Ultra-processed foods and products with added sugar will be included in the tax reform approved last year. From November, some twenty ultra-processed and sugary products will be taxed with the so-called healthy tax (impuesto saludable, as Colombians call it). This new law aims to serve two objectives: to increase tax collection and to reduce the pressure on the health system by keeping a series of diseases under control.

Healthy Tax Explained: Goals and Objectives of the Reform

The tax on sugary beverages is based on the sugar content in grams per hundred milliliters. For example, the price of a liter and a half of soda with 7.4 grams of added sugar would increase by $270 Colombian pesos due to the new tax.

A healthy tax will also be applied to ultra-processed products containing sodium, sugars or saturated fats such as sausages (except mortadella), confectionery, chocolates, bakery products, pastries, biscuits (except bread and wafers), ice cream and jams, among other food categories.

The Pan American Health Organization, a health watchdog for the Americas, notes that the tax will help reduce the consumption of harmful products and the costs of health care.

In Colombia, there are already labels that warn people against consuming unhealthy food or drinks. However, according to Carolina Piñeros, the director of pro kids NGO “Red Papaz,” these labels have not been effective.

“The issue is that we have two seals, a circular one that was approved by the Government of the ex-president Iván Duque initially, and which has not proved to be effective. Then we managed to change to octagonal labeling and this will still not be all products until June of next year” Piñeros said.

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