Danes deal a blow to campaign for fat tax in Canada
NationalPost.com – FullComment
Nov 13, 2012. Kelly McParland
Bad news for Ontario doctors who think a tax on unhealthy food will help them fight obesity. The only “fat tax” in the world — introduced by Denmark a year ago — has been dropped after just 12 unsuccessful months.
Citing a harmful effect on businesses and consumer buying power, lawmakers in Denmark have repealed the so-called fat tax, which was charged on foods high in saturated fats, after just one year.
In a related decision, the Danish tax ministry said it was canceling plans for a sugar tax. “The fat tax is one of the most criticized we had in a long time,” Mette Gjerskov, minister of food, agriculture and fisheries, said on Saturday during a news conference in Copenhagen, the day the repeal was announced.
“Now we have to try to improve public health by other means.”
The well-meaning Danes discovered that jacking up the tax on junk food did reduce sales in Denmark. But that was because people were heading to Germany or Sweden to buy it at lower prices.
“We did not use to buy cheese here, but the price difference for our favorite type is now more than 30%,” Anitha Nissen said, while helping her husband load groceries into their silver Suzuki. The Danish couple now crosses the border three or four times a year to stock up on goods.
The failure suggests critics had a point when they said a new Ontario Medical Association war on obesity wouldn’t succeed in taxing people into improving their diets. In October the OMA announced it campaign, arguing obesity should be confronted just as aggressively as the battle against smoking.
The campaign calls for graphic warnings — like the ones tobacco companies must print on cigarette packages — on high-calorie, low-nutritional value foods such as sugar-sweetened soft drinks, french fries and even fruit juices.
It also calls for higher taxes on sugary or fatty foods, lower taxes on healthy foods, and restrictions on sales of junk foods in sports venues and other recreational facilities used by children and teenagers.
The OMA estimated that 31.5 per cent of children and teens are overweight or obese, up from 14 to 18 per cent in the 1980s. The Danish National Health and Medicines Authority estimates 47% of Danes are overweight and 13% are obese. Presumably Ontarians can be just as innovative Danes in finding ways to get food that’s bad for them.
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