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The European Fat Tax: Should We Try It?

As Americans argue about cutting taxes, Europeans are finding new ways to collect them, this time with sugar, fat, and salt.



The European Fat Tax: Should We Try It?

Taxing unhealthy food could take a bite out of the deficit.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Two words that no one mentioned during the recent debt-ceiling debates were "sugar tax". Successfully beaten down by the food industry and angry citizens in every city where they were proposed, sugar and soda taxes don't seem to have much of a future in America. For Europeans, though, it's a whole other story.

On September 11th, Hungarians will have to start shelling out 10 Hungarian forint (or $0.05) for chips, sodas, chocolate bars, and other unhealthy foods now controlled by a "fat tax." Initially called the "hamburger tax," the extra Euros are being levied on any food that doesn't meet certain sugar, fat, and salt requirements.

Though Hungary's obesity rates are below those in the U.S.—about 20 percent compared with our 30 percent—the funds on the tax are expected to raise the equivalent of $100 million, enough to pay for state-funded health care for the nation's 10 million residents.

Hungary's move shadows that of Denmark, where a similar fat tax was levied earlier this year on products high in saturated fat. Obesity rates there are even lower than in Hungary, just 10 percent. According to FoodNavigator.com, who initially reported on Hungary's new fat tax, the Danish Chamber of Commerce opposed the move on the grounds that it could interfere with imports and revenues. But the Chamber also noted that the tax might come with unintended consequences, such as replacing saturated fat with additives that may or may not improve the health profile of a food item, not unlike the way saturated fats were demonized in the U.S. and then replaced with hydrogenated oils that are high in what we now know are dangerous, heart-damaging trans fats.

Filed Under: FOOD MARKETING, SUGAR TAX

Published on: August 9, 2011



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Corn-fed by Government.

This won't work here. The government already pays the corn farmers to raise GMO corn to fuel the high fructose corn syrup companies. If the Government now added taxes to these items that they are backing, well that would be quite deceiving and hypocritical, not that I wouldn't put it past them. If the Government really cared about our health they would be paying farmers to grow fresh edible fruit and vegetables, not non-edible corn to make HFCS that is in almost every affordable food item. Not to mention it's also fed to most of the cattle and poultry, so it's in all our meat as well.

On this point I mostly agree with Shankrill below. The poor in this country would be the targets of a tax like this. Sure they might be able to learn how to eat better, but honestly, many of the poor here are just living day to day to survive and feed their families, they shouldn't have to worry about big business making a product that will negatively affect their health, it shouldn't be allowed here.

Tax is not the answer.

Wrong target

People don't eat fatty food because it's cheap. Some of the reasons we eat these things are: to soothe distress, because it's the cheapest thing in the neighborhood, because someone doesn't know how to cook healthy foods, because fatty foods are part of belonging to a certain culture and history, etc. Those motives can and should be addressed in ways more effective and less punitive than a tax.

Second, it's the poor who tend to be obese. Taxing the poor who are to a degree driven or constrained to eat these foods (for any of the above reasons or more) is not the ethical way to go about this, even if the resulting funds were spent on improving the health of the poor. Poverty is one of the root causes of poor health, and should be addressed directly.

So, let's close tax loopholes for the wealthy and for corporations, and get that money to programs among those who most need to learn about how to incorporate healthy foods into their lives.

Awesome!

I think this is an incredible idea! As for freedom of choice, children don't have that. If their parents stuff their little faces with junk food, they have no way to control it. Maybe if there were taxes on this stuff, parents would take the time to make and serve healthy food to their kids! And make a law so food companies can't replace this stuff with other nasty stuff like high fructose corn syrup. We must take back our food supply!!

You can't be serious

A Fat Tax??? What did we forget about the idea of freedom and choice? When we make genetically modified foods and chemical additives that have proven adverse health effects in food illegal, then I will believe that we are serious about people's health! Until then, keep the food police out of my kitchen!!

Call them vicd taxes

Pass those laws. I'm overweight and I do not eat those things, except sugar items. This law will make sweet makers turn to Stevia., and that's good for me. Start with sugar alone, then the others.

P.S. I'm seventy and all my readings are excellent, at 70. They would be good for a 30 year old. You also get fat if you eat too much good food. But the health effects are quite different from eating junk food.

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