Denmark’s New “Fat Tax”

gty butter fat foods jt 111002 wblog Denmark Introduces Fat Tax on Foods High in Saturated Fat

In the beginning of this month, Denmark introduced what is believed to be the world’s first “fat tax,” which effects foods high in saturated fat. The tax adds up to about $6.27 per pound of saturated fat in a food (why any meal would have a pound of saturated fat in it is beyond me. That would be… disgusting). Denmark’s motivation for initiating this tax is to help catch up their own population to the rest of Europe’s average life expectancy…. supposedly.

Although the aforementioned reason may be legitimate, I suspect that they won’t be too sad about the increase in revenue, either. This article even says that the percentage of tax on these foods aren’t enough to deter people from buying them, and that even a huge tax of 50% will only decrease consumption by 3%:  “Brownell’s research has found it takes a 1-cent-per-ounce tax to change behavior; anything lower, will do great at bringing in revenue but likely won’t lower soda consumption.”

“If foods with saturated fats now cost more, you don’t know what people will eat in their place. The hope is they’ll eat healthier things” (Washington Post) Or maybe not. Maybe they’ll go substitute their sat fatty foods with foods that are high in sugar. Or sodium. Neither of which are great for you.

But wait a second, why are they targeting saturated fat? Short answer: because it’s bad for you. Saturated fats are fats which contain all the hydrogen atoms they can bond do. More importantly, they raise your bad cholesterol. Which is, well, bad. And now you know.

Another issue I have with this tax is the “big brother” role the government has taken with this legislation. “Denmark finds every sort of way to increase our taxes,” said Alisa Clausen, a South Jutland resident. “Why should the government decide how much fat we eat?” (ABC News)

The one pro I can think of this tax is that it may point out foods high in saturated tax that people were not previously aware were bad for them. But even this would be more effectively executed by launching ad campaign (but why would they? That costs money, not make it). Another idea would be to use the money from the sat fat tax to subsidize locally grown, healthy, organic foods to bring down those prices and make people more inclined to substitute those foods for their junk food indulgences. ““We get the taxes, but never a reduction on anything to complement the increases, such as  on healthy foods,” said Clausen.” (ABC News)

This tax has been suggested to be an important “bellwether:” It is believed that it will test both whether the policy works, as well as the political appetite for such levying such fines – which implies a slippery slope.

What do you think about this current event? France is considering implementing a sugar tax under the same idea as Denmark’s sat fat tax. Do you think this could some day happen in the US?

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2 thoughts on “Denmark’s New “Fat Tax”

  1. I don’t know about a fat tax, but I’m a weird person. Fat in itself is not a bad thing, especially if it’s fat from things like nuts, fish, avocado, eggs, oils, that kind of thing. Those are the naturally occurring, good fats that are really good for you.They are the ones that help you feel satisfied after a meal. But I think those are the unsaturated fats. If they aren’t taxing those, then fine.

    A sugar tax I think would be a good thing. If there were a sugar tax there would be a dramatic health benefit to this country. I know a lot of people are opposed to a sin tax of sorts, but I’m not, because I know it would be good for me too. Sugar triggers an insulin release, causing your body to think it needs to hold onto fat. So when people are dumping loads of sugar down their gullet all the time, it’s not helping their weight problem at all. This can lead to insulin resistance which can lead eventually to diabetes. A bit of sugar here and there is no problem, but there are so many great sugar-free alternatives that taste just as great that won’t spike your blood sugar. (I just saw at Kroger that Breyer’s has sugar-free vanilla ice cream! OM NOM!)

    I know my diet seems weird, but I seriously feel better than I have in a long time. Originally I started this because I was getting massive mid-afternoon headaches. I’m pretty sure it was sugar that did this to me. Dropping the carbs helped too, but even when I had a break weekend and had carbs, I didn’t have headaches, but when I plunged into a chocolate mousse and chocolate cake dessert at Logan’s I could feel my head quietly closing in on itself.

    So, for me, I have no problem with a sugar tax, a processed food tax (even though it would make my beloved oreos go up in price), or a bad fat tax (the weird stuff that doesn’t naturally occur in things like guamole!).

    My $0.02.

    • Oh, yes! No doubt fat is good for you! Fat protects your organs! It keeps you warm! It makes you feel fuller longer! It adds flavor! Yum. But Denmark’s new tax is just on saturated fats, which are empty calories that raise your LDL, bad cholesterol.

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