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Friday, October 14, 2011

Denmark Taxes "Fatty" Food

Denmark recently became the first country to tax "fatty" food. 

"In a bid to encourage healthier eating among its citizens, Denmark, a country famous for its butter and bacon, has brought in a tax on foods containing more than 2.3% saturated fat."(article)
So many ways to view this story...

Politically:  Would this work in the United States?  It is one thing to tax goods, services and processed foods.  But to tax food found in nature?  Where do you stop the taxation?  Is a hunter going to be taxed for the deer or wild boar he shoots?

Economically:  This is what the tax is really about, isn't it?  Do you really think the Danish government really cares about the health of their citizens?  Most likely this is just another way to get money from the taxpayers.

Nutritionally:  Denmark claims to have made this law in order to raise the average life expectancy of their citizens.  Danes live an average of 78.63 years (United States life expectancy is 78.37 years).
 
In the quote above it says "Denmark, a country famous for its butter and bacon".  Later in the same article it states,
"while life expectancy may be a problem, obesity among Danes is below 10%, well below the European average of 15%." (article)
The United States has an obesity rate of over 30%!  Let me make this more clear... The United States, a country which has pushed a high carbohydrate (grains, breads, cereals...), low fat (substituting vegetable oils and margerine, for butter) diet for decades, has 30% obesity.  While a country which is known for "its butter and bacon" has an obesity rate below 10%!  Pretty clear to me that saturated fat is not the cause of obesity!

So why the low life expectancy in Denmark?  We know the United State's life expectancy is low because we eat a lot of processed crap and are lazy.  Maybe Danes are skinny, but unhealthy?  Or maybe it's their health care system, which ranks 34 in the world (the US 37!).  Or their alcohol consumption which ranks 19th in the world.

It is short sighted to blame saturated fat as the cause of low life expectancy.  There is very little to no evidence that saturated fat consumption leads to increased risk of death.  I believe Denmark made a big mistake passing this tax law.  We can only hope our country does not follow suit.

2 comments:

I could see it being about the health of their citizens. With healthier people the economy would increase due to lower doctor payments.
I dont agree with the tax, on any type of food, but just wanted to point that out.
In the end, its up to the people to decide and I dont think taxes prevent people from buying things...look how many people still buy super expensive cigarettes.

In an economic standpoint, this does make sense. There's a strong proof that medical expenses shouldered by the government are exacerbated with cases of obesity. Levying taxes on "fatty" foods would not only yield profits for the government but would also exponentially lessen the medical expenses rooted from obesity.

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