October 3, 2011--
In an effort to reduce heart disease, Denmark instituted a tax starting October 1st on foods containing saturated fat.
The price of butter increased by 50 cents, a bag of potato chips 12 cents and ground beef 20 cents. The formula for the tax levy is 2.3 percent fat content would equal $1.60 per pound assessment for saturated fat.
Dr. Jorgen Dejgard Jensen of Copenhagen University told Global Post, “We will gain some very useful insights during the next year or two about whether it is changing consumption patterns, and also regarding the feasibility of implementing such a tax.”
Danish retailers have already started hoarding fatty foods ahead of the start date on Oct. 1. Mogens Nielsen, chairman of Dragsaek Group, one of the country’s largest margarine producers, reporting 500 metric tons in extra orders this month.
Denmark already taxes sugar at 66 cents per kilogram in cinnamon pastries as well as a tax on ice cream at 15 cents a liter.
But if the new tax succeeds in cutting the amount of saturated fats Danes consume by one-tenth, as is hoped, other countries are certain to take notice, not least the United States, where more than one in three adults is clinically obese.
Mike Rayner, Director of Oxford University’s Health Promotion Research Group, argues more food taxes are inevitable. He has long campaigned for taxes on unhealthy foods in the U.K., which has Europe’s highest obesity rates.
“I think we're going to have them in Britain, because the obesity crisis in the U.K. is such that we need to take more action.”
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has already called on Britain to introduce such a tax, and last year, the Food Standards Agency was reported to be considering launching a consultation on a fat tax in Britain, although later denied it had reached a decision on the issue, according to the Daily Mail.
The National Obesity Observatory estimates that 23 per cent of heart disease deaths and 6 per cent of cancer deaths can be attributed to excess weight.
There is also growing link between obesity and depression: the risk of it developing is 55 per cent greater in obese patients.
Arguments Against “Fat Tax”
The most outstanding argument is it would disproportionately affect the poor who are more likely to buy less expensive, fatty foods including convenience and processed foods.
In Britain a study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies in 2004 concluded that a tax similar to that now imposed in Denmark would cost the poorest 2 per cent of the population 0.7 per cent of their income.
For the richest 10 per cent of the population, on the other hand, the impact would be minimal.
Hungary has also introduced a tax on all packaged foods containing unhealthy levels of sugar, salt, and carbohydrates, as well as products containing certain amounts of caffeine.
Health experts believe such taxes will encourage food manufacturers to make products that have a reduced fat content with the possibility that consumers won’t even notice the difference in taste — and they might be far healthier.
Would You Support A Similar Tax in the U.S.?