Fat Tax Levied in Denmark

It’s finally happened: a fat tax is being implemented. Before you get hot under the collar, it’s not happening stateside. Yet. Denmark is the country bringing about the first tax to directly attack obesity.

“It’s the first ever fat tax,” said Mike Rayner, Director of Oxford University’s Health Promotion Research Group, who has advocated for quite some time the idea of taxes on unhealthy foods.

“It’s very interesting. We haven’t had any practical examples before. Now we will be able to see the effects for real.”

Hungary also implemented similar measures this month, imposing a tax on all packaged foods that contain unhealthy levels of sugar, salt, and carbohydrates. There will also be a tax on products that contain over 20 milligrams of caffeine per 100 milliliters of the product.

The tax rate is 16 Danish kroner per kilogram of saturated fat in a food. Depending on the exchange rate on any given day, that comes out to be about $1.29 for a pound of saturated fat. The tax is only implemented when the saturated fat content exceeds 2.3 percent in any given food. It is estimated that the new tax will raise about 2.2 billion Danish Krone, or about $394 million.

This isn’t the first time Denmark has taken a bold stance against obesity. The country has already banned trans fats, which has the double whammy effect of raising bad LDL cholesterol and lowering good HDL cholesterol at the same time.

The so-called fat tax is less about curbing obesity in Denmark (they are below the European average with a 13.4 percent obesity rate) than it is about raising the life expectancy of its citizens.

While the response has been mixed, one wonders if the country’s aggressive policy towards unhealthy food isn’t having a positive effect. Their obesity rate is about a third of ours in the U.S., which to be fair may be cultural as well.

One Dane made no bones about her opinion on the tax.

“Denmark finds every sort of way to increase our taxes,” said Alisa Clausen. “Why should the government decide how much fat we eat?”

Well, because the Danish government also funds her health care. Unless she wants to do away with the national health care system, she should understand that Denmark, or any country for that matter, has a vested interest in the health of its citizens.

She does go on to make a salient point, though:

“We get the taxes, but never a reduction on anything to complement the increases, such as on healthy foods.”

(via: LA Times)

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