Could 'fat tax' hurt junk food industry?

Denmark recently became the first country to implement a tax on saturated fats, and other countries are likely to follow.

By Kim Peterson Oct 5, 2011 3:56PM
Eating fatty foods just got a little pricier in Denmark.

The country is the first to slap a tax on saturated fats. Now, residents will pay about 12 cents more for a bag of chips, 39 cents more for a small package of butter and 40 cents more for a hamburger, one Danish group calculated. Hungary also recently implemented a tax on soft drinks, pastries and salty snacks.

The movement could spread to other countries; Finland and Romania could soon follow suit. Governments around the world are desperate for cash, and the tax is one way to raise more money while appearing to take a stand on public health.

Would a "fat tax" fly in the United States? Check out the debate in the following video.

Post continues below video:
When does the trend start to become a concern for companies like McDonald's (MCD) and PepsiCo (PEP), which owns the Frito-Lay snack food line?

Right now, there doesn't seem cause for worry. In fact, one Denmark resident thinks people will buy more of those foods just to thumb their noses at the system. "Knowing the Danes, it could have the opposite effect," he told The Guardian. "Like naughty children, when they are told not to do something, they do it even more."

Advocates in the United Kingdom say a similar tax is needed. If the UK doesn't act, 70% of the British population will be obese or overweight by 2050, the spokesman for the National Obesity System told the Guardian. About 15% of Europeans are obese.

The obesity rate is about 33% in the United States and expected to reach 50% by 2030.

The real question is whether a fat tax is any sort of deterrent. Taxes generally don't get people to change their behavior, writes Stephen Gandel at Time. And a fat tax may unfairly punish the poor, since lower-income people usually eat fattier foods than rich people.

"Raise the tax on fatty foods, and you are only making the people who are most likely to need health care less able to afford it," Gandel writes. "And as a result, fat taxes can further increase the wealth gap in the country."

One study found that a 10% fat tax on dairy products only resulted in a 1% reduction in consumption. To really make a difference, the tax would have to be sky high.



Tags: MCDPEP
137Comments
Oct 6, 2011 5:07AM
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tax us more, so they can spend more.  Maybe they should tax us for breathing the air their bull$%$# is stinking up.
Oct 6, 2011 3:45AM
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This is absolutely ridiculous.  I eat fast food almost daily and I am not the least bit overweight or unhealthy.  And there are plenty of overweight people that are perfectly healthy.  Our government is not going to quit until they moderate every single facet of our lives.  
Oct 6, 2011 6:52AM
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Robert what authority does the government have to tell anyone what weight they should be. Last I checked we were supposed to be a free country, something that is rapidly fading away. In the end every single tax is used unwisely, but for the government to even entertain the thought of swaying people to eat the way they want is pushing it. Whats next, they dictate what kind of toothpaste I use or tax me if I choose otherwise?
Oct 6, 2011 4:11AM
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I'll agree to a "fat tax" on junk food if the politicians will: 1) agree to give up their Cadillac health plans that are not going to be affected by Obamacare in exchange for Obamacare, 2) agree to immediately cut all payroll taxes by 15% and phase out those taxes within 5 years and 3) agree to be audited yearly by both the IRS and whatever state tax authority they are subject to and have their immediate families audited by both as well. I think it's a fair exchange.
Oct 6, 2011 7:57AM
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How about lowering or doing away with the tax on healthy food
Oct 6, 2011 9:31AM
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Why is the head of the Stop Obesity group overweight?  How can she head a group that is designed to stop the overweight epedemic when she has more than one chin.  That would be like me as a smoker being the head of the American Lung Association.

Oct 6, 2011 9:35AM
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Stay out of my life Government, am so tired of Government butting in on how I live my life.
Oct 6, 2011 9:26AM
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Enough is enough, taxes on this taxes on that, it's disgusting and government is way out of control, period..............

Oct 6, 2011 5:04AM
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Why do we even celebrate 4th of july,its point less

 

Oct 6, 2011 7:49AM
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What bothers me most are two things: First, how is it the business of the government what my or any one else's diet is anyway? Second, and you may respond to the first because of the costs of medical treatment paid for by the government..yes but with money WE ALREADY SENT THEM! US Government does not have any money not stolen from the people of this country. So they are now saying that WE are costing THEM money they already STOLE from us, so NOW they want to STEAL MORE! Please, what ever happened to: ...of the people, for the people and by the people?
Oct 6, 2011 3:35AM
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hmm... I have a great idea. Lets increase tax on luxury goods. Per say... Imported Whiskey, not Jack Daniels. Imported Beers, not Coors. Imported Cheese. Brandname clothes. Stuff people can live without so that the only people who will be affected are rich people and stupid middle class who cannot save, so we are punishing stupid people and getting the rich to donate.

 

Oct 6, 2011 8:02AM
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I've believed for YEARS that we should tax junk food (which would cost me a fortune, I love junk food!) BUT - instead of going to the government, it should be used to subsidize the good stuff. The meat, fruit & veggies, dairy... It costs a lot less to fill your belly with junk than it does the good stuff, but it comes at the expense of our health in the end. Something has to change!
Oct 6, 2011 9:10AM
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Sooo, why not tax the people who inject steroids and unneeded medications into chickens, pigs and cows that are harmful just to produce bigger portions that make us fat?
Oct 6, 2011 8:22AM
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I believe a tax on "stupid," would raise more revenue than a fat tax.  And, a tax on "stupid" would also be easier to discern.  This article should be taxed.
Oct 6, 2011 7:28AM
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Taxes are an excuse to make the rich richer and keep the poor poorer govt bureaucrats think that we are fools that we trust them to spend tobacco taxes on children's health care they dont the money is misappropiated into other peoples pockets and why would the govt want to make money off a cancer causing product and now they want to tax fatty foods and sugary sweets for our own good i wish they stop being so good to us never trust those who profit and benefit off a so called health care issue all they really want to do is legally steal our money all taxes such as these sin taxes should be immediately ended for the good of moral standing and our freedom and liberty. 
Oct 6, 2011 6:09AM
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I have a much better idea idea - How about if some of us football playing types with BMI's over 25 (that's virtually everyone on your average college squad by the way) beat the living tar out of that sub-25 BMI male pinko for suggesting such a ridiculous thing.  And while we're at it that chubby female professor ought to pay a hypocrisy tax along with her fat tax for even entertaining such a scheme. 

Honestly the rednecks in this country have it all wrong - instead of beating up on minorities or gay people who do them absolutely no harm, they ought to kidnap a few of these over-educated, under-brained, socialist policy wonks and drag them thru the mud behind a pickup truck .  This country has thrown off the shackles of Puritanism before, and by golly we'll do it again.
Oct 6, 2011 10:16AM
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How about a fat tax for the government?  They are much more bloated than the citizens.
Oct 6, 2011 8:54AM
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Sounds like y'all think that the government cares about your health with this tax.  It is just an effort to raise CA$H.   They could care less about your health it is once again about grabbing more cash out of the working mans pocket.

 

It goes along with those Red Light cameras.  They tout it as a safety concern and it is just an effort to fill their coffers in any way they can. 

 

Politicians look out for big businesses and anyone else they will eventually get a kickback from.  Has anyone seen a living wage being paid to any hard working people in the last 20 years?

Oct 6, 2011 7:09AM
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If the US government needs money, it should crack down on social security fraud and medicare fraud and welfare fraud and stop sending handouts to foreign countries. The deficit would disappear. If the government wants people to eat 'healthy' it should give the food away for free.
Oct 6, 2011 9:35AM
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Right, because nobody gets sick eating cantalope, ground turkey, or spinach.  Just how many recalls have there been on contaminated "healthy" food lately?  After people die, of course.

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