The Danish ‘fat tax’ experiment implemented a year ago, which taxed food products containing more than 2.3 % saturated fat, appears to have failed. Charges for products that are naturally high in fat such as meat, butter and dairy products resulted in strong public opposition.
- Business pressures were influential in the repeal of the tax as Danish residents were buying from Sweden and Germany to avoid the levy, the cost of doing business was increased and jobs were put at risk, meaning that although intended to improve health and reduce the cost of diet-caused disease, overall the fat tax seems to have reduced consumer wellbeing.
- For tax-induced behavioural changes to take effect it has been suggested that a 20% increase in tax is needed. The Danish policy increased tax on certain foods by up to 9% which was enough to cause public outcry, but apparently not enough to change eating habits.
- Other countries have focussed on processed food, fast food or sugary drinks to achieve the same goal, which may be a more promising strategy.
Implications and next steps: Reducing disease caused by diet is an admirable long-term goal. However, the approach to achieving this goal must be well thought out to reduce public outcry and encourage the adoption of a healthy diet, combined with other initiatives such as the promotion of physical activity, to maximise the success of the strategy.
New Scientist: http://tinyurl.com/ccwn725