Tue, Oct 04, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Danes pay ‘fat tax,’ but effectiveness not certain

The Guardian, LONDON

In a sunny park in Copenhagen, Mathias Buch Jensen was unimpressed. All around him, people were tucking into beer and chips. There were few signs that the latest offensive in the worldwide war on obesity was having much effect.

However, Denmark might not be the best place to experiment with a “fat tax” on lardy products.

“You know, Danes are big fans of butter,” Buch Jensen mused. “We love fat.”

“Knowing the Danes, it could have the opposite effect. Like naughty children, when they are told not to do something, they do it even more,” he said.

In a country known for butter and bacon, Denmark’s new tax is a body blow. Danes who went shopping yesterday paid an extra US$0.39 on a pack of butter and US$0.12 on a packet of potato chips, as the new tax on foods which contain more than 2.3 percent saturated fat comes into effect. Everything from milk to oils, meats and pre-cooked foods such as pizzas will be targeted. The additional revenues raised will fund obesity-fighting measures.

Hungary has recently imposed a tax on all foods with unhealthy levels of sugar, salt and carbohydrates, as well as goods with high levels of caffeine. Denmark, Switzerland and Austria have already banned trans fats, while Finland and Romania are considering fat taxes.

However, it is Britain which has the biggest obesity problem in Europe, and campaigners have urged the government to follow Denmark’s lead.

Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: “It is not a question of whether we should follow the Danes’ lead — we have to.”

A recent study found that poor health and obesity costs the UK economy at least £21.5 billion (US$33.3 billion) a year.

Some experts argue that fat is the wrong target and that salt, sugar and refined carbohydrates should be tackled instead, but Colin Waine, former chairman of the National Obesity Forum, welcomed the move.

“Saturated fats have a higher calorie content than carbohydrates. I don’t think you can do everything all at once,” he said.

Fewer than 10 percent of Danes are obese, below the 15 percent European average, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Britain’s rate is 24.5 percent.

Buch Jensen is not planning to change his eating habits. Asked if he would be giving up butter, he offered a compromise: “I would fry cabbage in butter and add a little more butter at the end. That way at least I’m getting my vegetables.”

This story has been viewed 3193 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top