On 5 February 2015, the European Commission initiated a formal investigation procedure against Denmark’s so-called ‘fat tax’, which was introduced in 2011 and abolished in January 2013: the European Commission suspects it could be considered as illegal state aid.
The goal of the investigation would be to determine whether food producers who were not forced to add an extra fat tax on their products received illegal assistance.
The tax was levied on meat, dairies, oils and other foods with at least 2.3% of satured fat. The Commission argues that all products with saturated fats should have had the fat tax added.
When abolishing the tax, the government put forward it had created administrative burdens it created, a dramatic rise in border trade and uncertainty among consumers on the real costs of food products.
A full article from Euractiv on the investigation can be read here.
The spokesman of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture mentioned in an article in Die Welt that: “Using punitive food and drinks taxes which generate political control of consumption and patronize the consumer, should be rejected.”
Penalty taxes for supposedly unhealthy foods usually bring no change to the diets of individuals. The Ministry highlighted that: “In November 2012, the Danish Government abolished the fat tax which had been introduced a year earlier on the grounds that the tax did not change dietary behaviour.”
Zucker-Fett-Steuer soll Fettleibigkeit eindämmen
Das Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft wiegelt ab: “Eine politische Steuerung des Konsums und Bevormundung der Verbraucher durch Strafsteuern lehnt das Ministerium ab”, teilte ein Sprecher mit.
Strafsteuern für vermeintlich ungesunde Lebensmittel änderten in der Regel nichts am Ernährungsverhalten der Menschen: “So hat beispielsweise die dänische Regierung im November 2012 ihre ein Jahr zuvor eingeführte Fettsteuer wieder abgeschafft, mit der Begründung, die Steuer habe das Ernährungsverhalten nicht verändert.”
Please see the article here: http://www.welt.de/gesundheit/article128257815/Zucker-Fett-Steuer-soll-Fettleibigkeit-eindaemmen.html
While a ‘fat tax’ is still being discussed in some European countries, the idea of it has faded in Italy, particularly as the Institut Économique Molinari (IEM) released its study showing the undesirable effects of a ‘fat tax’. According to the study, there were too many negative side-effects of a tax on saturated fat, and consumption levels did not alter much.
The whole article is available here.
The Institute of Economic Affairs’ May 2013 Current Controversial Paper examines how the Danish ‘fat tax’ policy went from ‘unanimous parliamentary support to becoming an “unbearable burden” on the Danish people,’ written by journalist and researcher Christopher Snowdon. His study highlights important lessons for UK policymakers considering ‘health-related’ taxes on fatty and sugary foods.
Snowdon writes that the tax on saturated fat failed due to the ‘invariably negative’ economic effects it had. Many Danish jobs were cut as consumers simply went across the border to Sweden or Germany to shop for food, and at least 10% of fat tax revenues went to administrative costs. Furthermore, it is widely agreed that the tax only helped make ‘the poor poorer’.
At the same time, it did not alter Danes’ attitude towards unhealthy food as 80% of Danes admitted that they did not change their shopping habits at all.
In conclusion, the policy was ineffective, regressive and ‘one of the most criticised policies [the Danish government] has had in a long time,’ says Mett Gjerskov, minister for food, agriculture and fisheries. The Danish experiment can only be an example to the UK, and elsewhere, that the effect of such policies on calorie consumption and obesity is likely to be minimal.
The study is available here.
The key findings from the Danish fat tax and comments on Snowdon’s report are available here.
Professor Andreas Pfeiffer said ‘it seems we are losing the battle’ at the European Diabetes Congress in 2012, as the number of people diagnosed with type-1 diabetes increases globally by 3% every year. So what can we do about it?
Pfeiffer outlines the need to promote healthier lifestyles in terms of exercise and nutrition. He encourages adults to bike to work, or send their kids to school by bike, provided that safe routes are available. Furthermore, it is important to offer healthy food at affordable prices and highlight the need to consume fewer calories.
According to the professor, a tax on saturated fat like the one seen in Denmark is not the way out. ‘It did not result to anything in Denmark,’ he says. In the end, the long-term strategy of branding unhealthy food as ‘out’ and healthy food as ‘in’ might just be the best solution.
The full article is available here.