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Denmark Ends Fat Tax (But Not Because It Didn’t Work)

Denmark Ends Fat Tax (But Not Because It Didn’t Work)

Just over a year afterDenmark passed what is thought to be the world’s first fat tax, the Danish government has announced it will eliminate the measure. The reason is not that the tax was unsuccessful at its goal of making people slimmer and healthier but for economic and political reasons.The tax was said to be especially onerous to small businesses; “maligned” is an oft-mentioned word in the arguments.

Authorities say that the tax inflated food prices and put Danish jobs at risk. Denmark’s center-left minority agreed to scrap the tax as part of the government’s budget negotiations, in a year when the country’s economic output and investments have declined. Even without taxes on fat and sugar, Denmark already had one of the highest tax burdens in the world.

Under the tax, which was introduced on October 1, 2011, foods containing over 2.3 percent saturated fat were subject to the measure, be they dairy, meat or processed foods such as butter, cheese, sausage and oil. Specifically, for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of saturated fat in an item, 16 kroner ($2.70) were added to the price. As the BBC explains, the tax meant that a 250 gram pack of butter cost 2.20 kroner more.

While there is only limited evidence to suggest that the tax was significantly hurting Danes in the wallet, a number of Danes have been crossing the border to Germany (where prices are as much as 20 percent cheaper) or Sweden. Along with rescinding the fat tax, the ministry also said that it scrapping plans to introduce a sugar tax.

With 47 percent of Danes overweight and 13 percent obese, noword yet on precisely how the Danish government now hopes to address its citizens’ health issues.

Other countries including the UK, Switzerland and Germany have cited Denmark’s fat tax as a model, so the Danish government’s decision to end it is a setback in efforts to urge people to have healthier lifestyles via legislation. As the Guardian notes, France’s government has already instituted a tax on sodas and sugary drinks, is planning to quadruple taxes on products containing palm oil (causing a “big fat international row” over Nutella, 20 percent of which is made of palm oil) and is considering introducing a tax on beer, all with a view to promoting healthy lifestyles (and increasing tax revenues of course).

In Denmark, the fat tax did bring in about 170 million ($216 million) in revenue in 2012. Lawmakers say they will slightly raise income taxes and decrease personal tax deductions to offset any losses.

The jury is still out about how the likes of a fat tax, a soda tax and other “nanny state” measures can help us change our diets.

In the US, over two-thirds of adults in are obese and over one-third overweight and the rates for children are catching up. We are having our cake and eating it too but at what cost?

 

Related Care2 Coverage

A Fat Tax in Denmark: Should It Happen in the US?

 

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103 comments

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5:09AM PST on Dec 11, 2012

I think that there's not just one measure to rid us of obesity. Taxes are just a desperate one. Education, banning fat and sugar in schools, limiting advertisement of fast food targeting children, subsidizing healthy choices like veggies, berries, nuts and fruits are some of my suggestions.
Obesity and overweight will kill us all in the end. It's a disaster for the individuals affected and it cost us billions in healthcare.
Fat may be beautiful and skinny ugly, but how about lowering the average weight in all Western countries to a healthy level?

10:45AM PST on Dec 6, 2012

It's a good idea in theory, just like Prohibition was. In actual practice, however, all Prohibition did was turn alcohol into a member of the "forbidden fruit syndrome," and I'm afraid that that's what'll happen with fat if the US tries to tax it.

8:17PM PST on Nov 27, 2012

Education is the golden bullet.

2:06PM PST on Nov 20, 2012

Scientifically illiterate.

2:02PM PST on Nov 20, 2012

To me, it boils down to personal choices, lifestyle and attitude. Add to this extreme advertisement, instant gratification and consumerism. The sad fact is, this is how the younger generations are brought up. Society has to learn how te be a sensible consumer in every aspect of consuming and purchase of goods, food especially. and perhaps bring up their children in a better way instead of give, give give and take, take, take.

4:55PM PST on Nov 19, 2012

we are not children we should be able to eat fat or not!

8:17AM PST on Nov 19, 2012

Copenhagen is the 2nd most expensive Capital in the world, so they didn't need this additional tax. I was suprised that so many are considered overweight. I worked in Copenhagen the past 5 months and most everyone is thin. I guess they are finding those overweight individuals outside the Capital.I tend to agree that the government shouldn't involve theirselves in what a person choses to eat, but with universal health care......eating the wrong things can cost the government a lot down the road.

But it is true about the Danes going to Germany to buy sweets. Us, in Sweden, head to Germany to buy alcohol because of the huge tax we have at the government liquor stores and the Danes are there buying soda....lol.

7:20AM PST on Nov 19, 2012

thank you for sharing

6:50AM PST on Nov 19, 2012

This tax was stupid from the first. Replacing natural whole foods like eggs and milk with rancid, oxidized vegetable oils will make people fatter and sicker.

3:52AM PST on Nov 19, 2012

What, exactly, constitutes a failure if both creating a nation of tax cheats and harming businesses, does not?

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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