Denmark recently announced that they have passed legislation to impose a tax on fat used in the production of food. Specifically, the tax is to kick in when the amount of saturated fat in food exceeds 2.3 percent and will add a cost of about $1.29 per pound to these products. Some may disagree with Denmark's imposition of this tax, perhaps because they may feel its too controlling or simply because it will lead to a hefty increase in food prices. These points may be valid, however, I personally think this may represent the beginning of a trend where countries levy taxes on food considered to be unhealthy.
The reason for my view is simply because those countries which provide government funded health care are able to use this tax to manage the rising cost of health care related to an overweight population and simultaneously thwart the consumption of unhealthy products.
Like some other countries (as well as the state of California), Denmark has also banned the use of trans fats, the worst type of saturated fat. It is certainly hard to argue against banning trans fat considering its affect on cholesterol — increasing the bad cholesterol and decreasing the good cholesterol potentially adding two independent risk factors for heart disease.
Though I believe these measures will ultimately benefit the Danes in the long term it is worth to consider a couple of things. Will the increase in food prices due to taxation ultimately affect those with lower economic prosperity the most? And will demand for "delicious" food encourage companies to supplement fat with sugar — thereby counteracting the intended health benefits sought. Indeed, is fat even the appropriate target, or should more emphasis be laid on sugar?
Despite my view that this tax will be beneficial, the answers to these questions must be considered to make sure that implementation is beneficial and not counter productive.
- Fat tax in Denmark: Why they have it; could it happen in U.S.? (LA Times, October, 2011)
- Denmark's "fat tax" targets butter, burgers (CBS News, October 2011)
- Denmark introduces world's first food fat tax (BBC News, October 2011)