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Denmark Has Introduced a ‘fat Tax’, the UK Could Be Next to Tax Fatties

Posted on the 04 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Denmark has introduced a ‘fat tax’, the UK could be next to tax fatties

So tasty, but so expensive. What's a fatty to do? Photo credit: L.Richarz

For Danish butter lovers life just got harder. For the first time, a “fat tax” has been introduced, adding a surcharge to foods such as butter, cheese, pizza and meat with more than 2.3% saturated fat, the BBC reported. This legislation has been brought in to reduce people’s intake of fatty foods, officials say, in an attempt to raise the health of the nation, increase the average life expectancy and reduce levels of obesity, currently at under 10 percent in Denmark (compared to 20 percent in the UK). The move has commenters split. Some experts say that saturated fats aren’t the biggest food evil we face, while others claim the tax will unfairly impact the poorer sections of the population.

Can this new sin tax have a tangible impact the health of Denmark, and do we need to start stocking up on our favourite fatty indulgences before the tax lands here?

Danish largely unfussed. While foreign commenters are in uproar, one way or the other, the Danes are apparently unfazed by the changes. The Copenhagen Post claimed the Danes were “taking it in their stride”, somewhat bemused by the international attention. Mathias Buch Jensen told the Guardian that locals were unlikely to respond dramatically to the changes: “we love fat.”

“Knowing the Danes, it could have the opposite effect. Like naughty children, when they are told not to do something, they do it even more,” Jensen added

Scientifically sound? Dr Ian Campbell said of the new tax: “it’s unfair, it’s unmanageable, and it won’t work.” In the Mirror he claims that while a fat tax may reap short term health benefits, there is “no proof that it will have any impact on obesity levels whatsoever.” Jennifer Huget questioned the scientific foundation of the move, and doubted “whether saturated fat is quite the dietary demon it’s believed to be … I’m not a fan of taking huge public policy steps without being sure of the supporting science”, she wrote at The Washington Post.

“Good job, Denmark.” Mike Rayner, Director of Oxford University’s Health Promotion Research Group, welcomed the news. “Now we will be able to see the effects for real,” he told the Telegraph, while Tam Fry felt that “obesity is such a huge issue that we must begin thinking the unthinkable.” Meanwhile, in the US, on the Stir, April Peveteaux applauded the tax: “good job, Denmark”.

Spreading. The new tax has brought widespread calls for similar moves across the globe. Hungary recently introduced a similar tax on foods with high fat, sugar and sat content, and the world is watching to see how this Denmark experiment will be. At the Conservative Conference, Prime Minister David Cameron conceded that “it is something we should look at.” Tam Fry told The Guardian that “it is not a question of whether we should follow the Danes’ lead – we have to.” Ross Clark of the Daily Mail enthusiastically calculated that by 2050 obesity may be costing the UK £50 billion annually, and claimed that a fat tax is “the best way to save the NHS billions”, and pointed to the revenue generation of alcohol and tobacco taxes. So far calls for such taxes in the UK have been resisted by Health Minister Andrew Lansley, but Rayner feels the time has come: “I think we’re going to have them in Britain whether Mr Lansley wants them or not, because the obesity crisis in the UK is such that we need to take more action.”

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