Beginning September 1, 2011, Hungarians will be required to pay an additional 10 forint (approx. $.05 US) tax on food items that contain high levels of salt, sugar or fat. Additionally, taxes on liquor and soft drinks will increase by 10 percent.
The first of its kind in the world, the new “fat tax” officially passed on July 12 after its authors agreed to exempt fast food companies. The measure is expected to raise $100 million a year to help offset state-covered health care debt, which sits at about $534 million. About 20 percent of Hungarians are obese, compared to 30 percent in the United States.
Not surprisingly, the bill faced stiff opposition from food manufactures and some restaurants who say that salty, sugary and fatty foods aren’t unhealthy. The Global Post reports:
The CIAA, a European food and drink lobby group, says [fat taxes are] “discriminatory” because they target specific types of food and tend to hit low-income groups hardest. At the same time it says such taxes are cumbersome to collect, economically damaging and have no proven potential to improve eating habits. Danish obesity rates, it says, have risen despite having a tax on candy since 1922.
According to national officials, Hungarians spend about 17 percent of their household income on food, which is more than double the average for American families and pay a sales tax among the highest in the EU. Consumers in Hungary already pay an extra 25 percent on most types of food and drink, except dairy and bakery products, which are taxed at 12 percent (Euractiv).
In 2008, Alabama became the first U.S. state to levy a fat tax, charging state employees that are obese or have high blood pressure, cholesterol or glucose $25 a month more in health insurance. In early 2011, Mexico’s ban on junk food in schools went into effect, making it illegal for the country’s 220,000 public and private elementary and middle schools to eat from the vending machine. And last year the Mayor of San Francisco banned vending machines on city property from dispensing Coke, Pepsi and other calorically sweetened beverages as part of the Soda Free Summer initiative.
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