On 18 May 2015, the first results from the study NutriNet Santé were published in Belgium. It was investigating the diet and lifestyles of 5.000 Belgian consumers.
A dedicated working group in Flanders has been working on the report and concluded that introducing a soft drinks tax in Belgium does not make sense as an isolated measure and that many conditions need to be met to make it a success.
The Belgium government has been looking into the report as well and Public Health Minister Maggie De Block stated clearly that she is not in favor of such a tax. Her predecessor, Laurette Onkelinx, had also turned away from such a soft drink tax.
The taxes set in France and Denmark are not convincing the Belgian government to follow the same path. According to the RTBF, the Danish Minister for Agriculture had indicated after the abolishment all food taxes that “the fat-tax was of the most detrimental taxes that was put in place in Denmark in a very long time“.
The full article from RTBF can be read here.
Is the food tax becoming an important weapon in the fight against obesity? Such a prospect is not yet on the cards in Belgium. A study at the University of Ghent has found little enthusiasm among policymakers, producers or consumers. To reach their findings, two master’s students in health sciences interviewed 25 key figures in policymaking circles and from producers’ and consumers’ organisations. They have summarised the results of their survey for the database of the Flemish Dissertation Award.
Isabelle Moncarey and Sofie Van den Abeele, two master’s students at UGent working under the supervision of Professors Ignaas Devisch and Lieven Annemans, investigated whether there is support for the introduction of food taxes in Belgium. To carry out their investigation, they interviewed the different stakeholders.
The introduction of food taxes would be a matter for the Federal Public Service (FPS) for Public Health. It is neither in favour of nor opposed to such a measure. It first wishes to examine the possible effect of food taxes, because the consequences are still unclear. Simulations indicate that food taxes can have a positive effect on shopping and consumption patterns. However, the taxes can take various different forms, some of which are rather more effective than others.
As a result of this uncertainty, other government services such as the FPS for the Economy and the FPS for Finance, which in the event of food taxes being introduced would have powers to control the measure, are somewhat sceptical. The producers’ organisations are also critical. Until it has been shown that such taxes work and hence improve public health, they regard them as primarily a fiscal experiment. The taxes would purely be of benefit to the government, which would be able to collect extra revenue. The producers also fear that food taxes would lead to job losses and the stigmatisation of certain products.
The consumers’ organisations are not particularly keen on such a tax either. Their main concern is about the possible social consequences. They fear that poorer families would be harder-hit by the tax, as it would further reduce their limited purchasing power. However, some consumers’ representatives take a more favourable view of food taxes, provided their introduction produces clear health benefits and is supported by awareness-raising campaigns.
“Food taxes will not be introduced in Belgium any time soon. Their effectiveness would first need to be demonstrated, but this would require research into food taxes, and so far there are no concrete plans for such studies. Maybe that will change soon with a new government,” conclude the researchers.
Read the full article here.
According to the Health Minister Laurette Onkelinx, there is no evidence that taxation has any impact on the consumption of soft drinks. For several months Health Minister Laurette Onkelinx has studied the possibilities of imposing a soda tax in Belgium. With the proceeds of the tax, Onkelix was planning to finance health campaigns targeted at improving people’s diets.
However, after consultation with the food industry Onkelinx has decided that the soda tax is not forthcoming. “We prefer a different approach, which we encourage producers to use less sugar. Because it is proven that a soda tax is not effective, “said Katleen Sottiaux, the spokeswoman Onkelinx in the Flemish newspaper De Tijd.
For more information please see here.
On Monday May 27, 2013, Belgian RTL + TV channel focused on the proposed Belgian tax on soft drinks. Several questions were raised regarding this issue including:
- Would a tax actually discourage people to drinks soft drinks and thereby reduce obesity levels?
- What exactly would you tax? The sugar?
- Would diet sodas be included in the tax?
- What impact would a tax have on distributors and ocnsumers
Watch the programme discussing these issues with guest speakers David Marquenie, Secretary General of the Royal Federation of the Water and Soft Drinks Industry (FIEB), and Anne Boucquiau, President of the Belgian Society of Medical Nutritionists (SBM).
The article and video are available here as well.
Even in a cash strapped European Union, a new fizzy drinks tax seems like a non-solution whether it be to promote better health or bolster state coffers.
In an article published in Les Echos, the Belgian think tank “L’Institut économique Molinari” argues that even though beverage taxes on fizzy drinks have been in place in the United States since the 1920s; the results have been negligible with absolutely no impact recorded on obesity in younger generations.
The think tank argues that the lack of results is due to a tax tackling the wrong issue. Rather than target individual foods and drinks, a stronger emphasis should be on the root cause of the problem where attempts to change individual behaviour is needed.
You can read the full article by following this link (website) or here (PDF)
You can read the full study here.