On ABC News this week Olivia Katrandjian reported that “Denmark has introduced what’s believed to be the world’s first fat food tax, applying a surcharge to foods with more than 2.3 percent saturated fats, in an effort to combat obesity and heart disease.”
Apparently that sent shock waves through the Danish culture and the Danes emptied grocery store shelves of their favorite goodies. Foods that will be taxed include butter, milk, cheese, pizza, oils and meat.
This is taking place in a country that only has 10 percent of their population that is considered obese, while our country has approximately one-third (33.8 percent) of adults and 17 percent of children considered obese. Denmark has had policies in place since 2004 that might have contributed to the relative health of their country by making it illegal for food to have more than 2 percent trans fat; taxing ice cream, chocolate and sweets by 25 percent; and increasing taxes on soft drinks, tobacco and alcohol products beyond the minimum levels established by the EU.
Officials in Denmark indicated that these tax increases “should be complemented by measures to make nutritious food more affordable.” However, it wasn’t clear what those measures would be.
After searching “fat tax” on Google, I found an intriguing article from the Southern California Law Review which talks about proposals being made in this country. http://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/scal78&div=51&g_sent=1&collection=journals One proposal is to use the taxes as a way to fund public health initiatives that teach people not to eat what they were taxed on. I guess this is one way to get money for health education programs, but it would seem like we might put money into health without such a tax.
In talking about this tax, unfortunately being called the “fat tax,” with my mindful eating class, a very good point was made. By taxing these kinds of foods, the responsibility and burden is being placed on the consumer of the food instead of the food companies themselves. It has always been my belief that the food companies should be made responsible for selling disease-producing foods that are high in sugar, fat, and salt. Selling food that kills people is no worse than selling tobacco that kills you. I’ve often joked with my friends that I will be running for president and my sole platform will be taxing food companies to pay for the health care bill. It is no secret that they spend millions of dollars figuring out how to hook you on their food and the food that “hooks you” has led to shockingly increased rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Of course, another way you can fight the food corporations and keep them from killing you is to stop buying their food. Vote with your dollars. That’s one way to effect change.