Do taxes on certain foods really work to decrease obesity levels? Real-life models are proving this hard to stomach. For one, the Danish tax on saturated fat was abolished last November, and the Hungarian tax on salt, sugar and energy drinks is producing undesired effects. For example, Hungarians are simply buying cheaper snack foods, rather than switching to healthier products.
The discussion of such a tax is also big in Germany. The German Ministry of Consumer Affairs recognises the need to combat obesity, but Consumer Affairs Minister Ilse Aigner considers a tax on foods to be the wrong approach. It ‘doesn’t change consumer behaviour, but simply bolsters government treasuries,’ says a statement issued by the Ministry. A much better approach would be to increase the access to information through initiatives such as clearer labelling mechanisms.
The food industry agrees, and states that not only would the tax harm low-income households more than others, but that citizens need ‘better education, rather than just state-nannying’ to motivate them to change their eating habits.
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