Study calls for 20% fat tax on unhealthy foods

Unhealthy Foods

Fat tax to lower obesity

A new study is calling for taxes on unhealthy food and drinks to be combined with subsidies on fruit and vegetables. The Oxford University study is based on a variety of ‘fat tax’ initiatives begun in some of the European countries and has examined the evidence on the health effects of food taxes. According to the study, taxes on unhealthy food and drinks would have to be at least 20% to have a significant impact on reducing obesity and heart disease. According to another study published on bmj.com, the so called ‘fat tax’ should be combined with subsidies on fruit and vegetables.

The study refers to US research which showed that a 35% tax on sugary drinks cut sales by 26% in a canteen. The authors of the Oxford study argue that extending the 17.5% rate of VAT to unhealthy foods in the UK would prevent up to 2,700 people dying of heart disease each year. The authors of the study reject claims by the food industry that fat taxes would be ineffective and lead to job losses, by pointing out that similar arguments were used by the tobacco industry against tobacco taxes some time ago. Arguing about the health benefits, authors point out that improvements in health among poorer people would be greater because poor people tend to eat more unhealthy foods than rich people.

The experts acknowledge the fact that some questions about fat tax enforcement remain unanswered – for instance, whether they should be levied on the raw ingredients or the finished product.

Anne Milton, the public health minister, said, “We are working with food companies through the Responsibility Deal to reduce calories and ensure healthier options are available. We believe that collective voluntary action can deliver real progress quickly.”

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