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Denmark introduces tax on fatty foods to improve life expectancy

Denmark has just introduced a tax on saturated fats in processed foods. The Washington Post reports the tax was approved by large majority in the Danish parliament last March as a move to help curb the country’s unhealthy eating habits and increase the population’s average life expectancy.  Denmark already had extra taxes on soft drinks, chocolates and soft drinks.

This follows a similar move in Hungary last month to impose special taxes on foods with high sugar, salt and fat content.

The new Danish tax has caused worldwide reaction.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, Sciblog blogger Amanda Johnson asks whether this country should follow Denmark’s lead and have a surcharge on foods high in saturated fat. She refers to FOE’s 2004 call for a fat tax.

New Zealands’s Food Industry Group (FIG) – a lobby group including the Food and Grocery Council and advertising and communications groups – says a fat tax is unlikely to have any effect on obesity levels.

This is FIG’s standard response to every intervention it doesn’t like. Further, by focussing just on obesity, FIG ignores the role of saturated fat in cardiovascular disease.  FOE believes that no single intervention will alone turn around the obesity epidemic, but a fat tax is one of the interventions in a wide-ranging mix that we need to implement in order to make significant progress.

Radio New Zealand reports health Minister Tony Ryall saying the Government has no plans to introduce a fat tax.


Green Party leader Bob Brown has called for Australia to examine the introduction of a saturated fat tax to cut obesity.

Deakin University’s Gary Sacks says modelling clearly shows that putting a tax on unhealthy foods and subsidising fruit and vegetables would end up making the population a lot healthier in the long term. FOE made a similar proposal to introduce both taxes and subsidies in its 2006 submission to the Health Select Inquiry into Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.

Food manufacturers’ lobby group the Australian Food and Grocery Council says that introducing a tax on saturated fat in foods is “regressive” and isn’t the answer to addressing obesity levels.

The Obesity Policy Coalition’s Jane Martin gives her views on the tax in a Crikey blog. She says it is a real-world experiment that could help shape obesity prevention policies in Australia, and potentially “sweeten the palate” for a soft drink tax.


The Daily Mirror has a debate about the benefits of a fat tax in Britain.  A fat tax supporter explains why a fat tax is the best way to save the NHS billions. An opponent points out a fat tax won’t prevent massive obesity.

In a surprise move, British Prime Minister David Cameron told a Conservative Party conference that Britain shouldn’t rule out introducing a fat tax and that drastic action was needed to prevent health costs soaring and life expectancy falling. The Guardian reports.

The Daily Mirror also interviews two “experts” who set out the arguments for and against a fat  tax. As well, a Scottish nutrition expert argues the case for reducing trans and saturated fats and explains why they are bad for us. “Reducing Trans- and Saturated fats will do little or nothing for efforts to combat obesity – it is to do with preventing heart disease,” he says

Published on October 7, 2011 in International news