Monday, 9 April 2012

Denmark leads the way in the world's first fat tax

Recently Denmark became the first country in the world to introduce a tax on foods that contain more than 2.3% fat. To put that into things we shop, that's butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed foods.

The aim is to reduce people's intake of fatty foods, but it's not to curb obesity. Fewer than 10% of the Danish populations are obese, which is quite a bit lower than the 15% European average. The outgoing conservative government in Denmark planned the fat tax as part of a goal to increase the life expectancy of the Danes. Danish research shows that excessive consumption of saturated fats causes about 4% of the nation's premature deaths with the current average life expectancy of 79 years expected to drop by three years over the next 10 years.

How will the new fat tax affect the cost of food in Denmark?

The new tax will add 16 kroner (around $AUD3.00) per kilo of saturated fats in a product, increasing the price of a burger by around $AUD0.15 and raising the price of a small package of butter by around $AUD0.40. As a result, the Danes began stockpiling tax affected products, filling their freezers in the lead up to this new tax.

Health minister Jakob Axel Nielsen introduced the idea of a fat tax back in 2009, stating that, "Higher fees on sugar, fat and tobacco is an important step on the way toward a higher average life expectancy In Denmark" because "saturated fats can cause cardiovascular disease and cancer." In March this year the tax was approved by large majority of the parliament.

Will Australia bring in a fat tax?

Chief executive Kate Carnell from the Australian Food and Grocery Council
AFGC) says a similar tax would not address our obesity levels. Australia has had a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on processed foods since 2000, yet obesity levels have continued to rise. Taxing dairy products has also been ruled out as the AFGC is encouraging people to have more calcium in their diets rather than less.

In a bid to curb obesity in Australia, the AFGC is calling on involvement from industries, governments and communities to help solve the crisis. One in four Australians are overweight or obese, which is why leading industry bodies, manufacturers and governments are all putting plans in place to help overcome the issue.

Here's what's currently being done:
·         Leading manufacturers have reduced the saturated fat content of cooked and smoked sausages and luncheon meats (excluding salami) to less than 6.5 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams.
·         The Victorian government recently spent $40 million on educating the public about nutrition and the importance of exercise.
·         CHOICE announced it will start naming and shaming foods making misleading health claims.
·         Australia has reportedly joined with the United States and Canada to call for the United Nations to change their rules around regulating the production and marketing of unhealthy foods.
·         The Cancer Council is calling for cartoons used in junk food advertising to be banned.
·         The Australian Medical Association wants to ban the advertising of junk food to children.
·         Hungry Jack's recently announced that vegetable options will now accompany its burgers.

Is a Fat Tax the Answer?

I don't think it necessarily is going to affect our obesity levels by simply taxing high fat foods, should we tax high sugar level food too then? But at the same time the above "actions" that the government are currently working with doesn't seem to do much either. Maybe we do need higher taxes on processed food, to force us to do more "home "cooking and start plan our meals.

We need to tackle our obesity epidemic in a similar way as we did with tobacco, and maybe a fat tax could give us that kick to start eating healthier and really think about what is in our food.

Do you think that introducing a fat tax would impact our obesity levels?

Yours in Health & Fitness,

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