Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Have You Heard About Denmark's New Fat Tax?

Thank you to Fooducate which is where I first heard about this story. It was originally reported by the BBC over the weekend. Apparently, the country of Denmark has passed the world's first 'Fat Tax'. Starting soon all foods with a saturated fat content of greater than 2.3% will carry a tax of aproximately 8 cents per ounce.

Oh, this is wrong on so many levels. I was rather angry when I first heard about the tax because it doesn't make alot of sense to me. The tax is only on products containing SATURATED fat. The types of products to be taxed will be items like butter, coconut oil, lard, some meats, cheese and full fat milk and the products that contain them like ice cream and pizza. It means that candy, chips or french fries fried in soybean oil, cakes and cookies made with canola oil or deconstructed fat free milk products will remain untaxed.

The items to be taxed are largely unprocessed items that my healthy weight family eats every week. Meanwhile the products that we avoid to maintain our health, like chips and cookies will remain untaxed!! While I am sure that some processed products will be taxed, it will be quite easy for food companies to reformulate those products and circumvent the tax. Manufacturers of butter would be unable to reformulate, of course. The tax means that a pound of butter will cost about $1.28 more! Raising the price of unprocessed food seems counterintuitive. Don't we want people to start making their own food rather than letting some unknown company do the cooking for us? Food is expensive enough already, levying a tax on so many unprepared foods makes little sense to me.

Perhaps it surprises you that I am against this tax? Actually I am all for taxing unhealthy foods. I fully support the once proposed NYC soda tax. I supported the once proposed ban of sugary beverages from being part of the SNAP benefit plan. I just disagree with the item being taxed here. If you want to address obesity, tax sugar. Our bodies need fat, even saturated fat. But our bodies don't need sugar at all!! Obesity is undoubtedly a complex problem. It is not one that a single bad ingredient or food caused. The causes of obesity are cultural as well as food related. But it makes no sense to me to blame the foods that we have been eating throughout history.

I don't anticipate additional countries following suit. I will be curious if the law even lives. Sometimes bad international press can turn the tide against such laws. This could be a difficult additional expense for the average Danish family. Suddenly your meat, milk, butter and cheese have an added tax. It could end up being $5-10 a week on otherwise unprocessed healthy foods. Over the course of a year that could mean an extra $250-$500!!!

It is clear to me that many people in positions of authority do not understand nutrition. Many folks do not understand the partnership between healthy fats and satiety. Meanwhile, how many hundreds of calories could you ingest of saturated-fat-free potato chips before you burst? I think the Danes got it all wrong. If the government should have any say over our diets, it ought to be them standing strong against sugar and banning non-food chemicals from the food supply. This tax is completely off base.

Do you agree with government taxes on food items? Why or why not?

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  1. That's horrible! I surely hope it doesn't catch on here. We'd go broke.

  2. Ugh, this annoyed me when I heard it too. How long before people understand that fat doesn't make one fat? Sad thing is, the farmers lobby isn't nearly as powerful as the processed food lobby.