Denmark abandons sugar and fat taxes
12 Nov 2012 | 14:39 GMT | Posted by Daniel Cressey | Category: Health and medicine, Policy
A world-leading ‘fat tax’ has been abolished in Denmark, with the country admitting the controversial attempt at engineering a healthier populace has failed. A planned tax on some high-sugar foods has also been abandoned, marking a setback for advocates of this method of encouraging health.
According to the Danish Ministry of Taxation the country’s tax on unhealthy, high-fat products had driven up prices and put jobs at risk.
“The fat tax is one of the most maligned we had in a long time. Now we have to try improving the public health by other means,” said minister for food Mette Gjerskov (quoted in the Wall Street Journal).
As the global population’s average weight creeps ever upwards despite public information campaigns extolling the benefits of a healthy diet, policy wonks have increasingly looked to legislation to control what people eat. A number of countries and jurisdictions had followed Denmark’s example or were looking to.
But in an opinion piece published in Nature in February doctor and medical researcher Robert Lustig, of the University of California, San Francisco, and his colleagues cast doubt on Denmark’s fat-tax and pointed out that “most medical professionals no longer believe that fat is the primary culprit” of obesity and related diseases. They suggested that the then mooted sugar tax was “a more plausible and defensible step” but this has now been thrown out along with the fat tax.
Other researchers have also chimed in – a paper published in the BMJ in May pointed out the growing trend of explicitly health-motivated taxes on certain foodstuffs. But that study warned that such taxes would likely need to be at the 20% level to have a real impact. (Denmark’s tax was 16 Kroner, around $2.70, per kilogramme of saturated fat.)
Fat tax scrapped as reality bites
Fatty food will be cheaper in Denmark after the government scraps a law it introduced last year to try and curb obesity. Picture: Adam Russell / flickr.com Source: Supplied
DENMARK'S government will scrap a fat tax it introduced a little over a year ago in a world first.
"The fat tax and the extension of the chocolate tax - the so-called sugar tax - has been criticised for increasing prices for consumers, increasing companies' administrative costs and putting Danish jobs at risk," the Danish tax ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
"At the same time it is believed that the fat tax has, to a lesser extent, contributed to Danes travelling across the border to make purchases.
"Against this background, the government and the (far-left) Red Green Party have agreed to abolish the fat tax and cancel the planned sugar tax."
Denmark's centre-left minority government is made up of the Social Democrats, Social Liberals and Socialist People's Party, and requires support from other parties to pass legislation in parliament.
The government and the Red Greens reached the agreement as part of their negotiations on the 2013 budget bill.
The previous right-wing government introduced the fat tax in October 2011 to limit the population's intake of fatty foods.
According to the Danish National Health and Medicines Authority, 47 per cent of Danes are overweight and 13 per cent are obese.
"Now we need to try to do something else to address public health," Food Minister Mette Gjerskov said, news agency Ritzau reported.
The fat tax has been levied on all products containing saturated fats - from butter and milk to pizzas, oils, meats and pre-cooked foods - in a costing system that Denmark's Confederation of Industries has described as a bureaucratic nightmare for producers and outlets.
The measure added 16 kroner ($2.63) per kilo of saturated fats in a product.
We should send nanny packing as Danes have done
DANES love food. Good food. Unashamedly, delectably, rich, fatty food. Next week, on Christmas