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?