Denmark has become the first country in the world to levy a tax on fatty foods . The Danes hope this tax will reduce consumption of saturated fat by 10% across the country.
The tax is intended to encourage people to buy healthier foods, by making unhealthy foods more expensive. But could this be an answer for the NHS’s lack of funds?
How will it work?
The charge will be levied at 2.5 Krone per kilogram of saturated fat.
This means butter will cost around 30p more that before.
Crisps will cost an additional 8p
Mince will cost 13p more per 1/2 kilo.
With the amount of crisps eaten in Britain, 8p per packet would add a sizeable chunk to NHS funds.
If the Dane’s example increases pressure for a similar tax in the UK, this will please NHS doctors and dieticians, worried that Britain suffers from the highest levels of obesity in Europe.
Mike Rayner, Director of Oxford University’s Health Promotion Research Group said “It’s the first ever fat-tax. It’s very interesting. We haven’t had any practical examples before. Now we will be able to see the effects for real.”The move is predicted to put pressure on other Governments including the UK to follow suit to curb rates.
Supermarkets have been expecting this.
Across Europe, with Governments going backrupt, supermarket managers have been juggling with prices on products. During recession, what these stores lose out on from poorer customers buying cheaper brands, they make up on wealthier customers who ‘down-size’ and cook at home rather than going out to a restaurant.
What’s the gain?
In Denmark, with a population of just over 5 million, the tax is expected to raise about 2.2bn Danish Krone (£140m); cut consumption of saturated fat by around 10pc, and butter consumption by 15pc.
Less than 10pc of Danes are clinically obese, putting them slightly below the European average. But researchers at Denmark’s Institute for Food and Economic estimate that close to 4pc of the country’s premature deaths are a result of excess consumption of saturated fats.
Hungary, at the start of this month imposed a tax on all packaged foods containing unhealthy levels of sugar, salt, and carbohydrates, as well as products containing more than 20 milligrams of caffeine per 100 milliliters of the product.
For Britain, where more than 20pc of the population is obese, the number will be considerably higher. Using the back of my trusty envelope, I calculate that if Britain imposed the same level of tax, and we ate approx. the same amounts as the Danes (which we do), the NHS could gain £1,680,000,000 per year – enough to pay for a lot of NHS care.
A 2007 study by Mr Rayner’s group concluded that a combination of taxes on healthy foods and tax breaks on fruit and vegetables could save 3,200 lives a year in the UK.
Health Minister Andrew Lansley has up until now resisted calls for taxes on unhealthy foods, yet he constantly moans about the fact that UK is full of obese people costing the NHS money. It’s time La La escaped out of Wonderland and came into the real world.
However, he may be over-ruled. Mike Rayner says “I think we’re going to have them (fat taxes) in Britain whether Mr Lansley wants them or not, because the obesity crisis in the UK is such that we need to take more action.
With any luck, once La La has got his incredibly unpopular Health bill through the House of Lords, with any luck he will be moved side-ways into a job where he will cause less harm, and we get a Minister who understands the NHS.
And for once I can’t see many – except for kids spending their pocket money on crisps – who will object to a Fat Tax.