/ Food & Drink, Health

Would fat taxes make us healthier – or just poorer?

The introduction of a ‘fat tax’ in Denmark has been widely reported this week and will apply to foods that contain saturated fat. With other countries following, is it something we should be considering in the UK?

With obesity rates continuing to rise and governments looking at ways to raise revenue in the current climate, taxing unhealthy foods is now being seen as a serious option for policy makers.

So-called ‘soda taxes’ on sugary drinks have been talked about in the United States for some time and the French Government has now said that it will introduce one. Hungary has already introduced a tax on foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

With around a quarter of the UK population obese, it’s clear that more needs to be done. Poor diet also contributes to the major killers in the UK – cancers, heart disease and stroke. The Government is due to publish a policy on how it will tackle obesity this year – so is it time to look at fat taxes here too?

High prices make healthy choices hard

Many factors obviously influence what we eat – from what’s most convenient to how it’s marketed and labelled. But price has always been a key factor and is becoming more so.

Research we carried out looking at the barriers to healthier eating found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, people think it would be easier to eat healthily if healthier options were cheaper.

The debate about fat taxes is therefore particularly interesting when the price of many foods, including fresh vegetables and dairy products, has increased a lot in recent months.

A Which? survey on food prices in July found that 84% of people are worried about food prices increasing. More than half of people think that high food prices make it difficult to eat healthily.

The idea behind taxing less healthy foods is that it helps shift the balance of what we eat. By taxing foods containing saturated fat (such as butter, cream and cheese) the Danish tax aims to encourage people to eat less of them.

What are the alternatives?

Research we have conducted into the role of financial incentives and disincentives has found that these types of taxes are just one option. The evidence isn’t very clear at the moment about what impact they have and there are concerns that they hit lower income consumers who are already struggling particularly hard.

Other measures, such as looking at how VAT is already applied to foods, and whether this can be more in line with healthy eating advice seem more promising and less divisive.

Price promotions would also be a good place to start. Just three in ten people told us that they think it is easy to eat healthily using supermarket special offers – so isn’t it time the supermarkets and other retailers took more responsibility for the type of foods they put on special offer and include in multi-buys?


Tax, Tax Tax. The Government will jump on this novel revenue raising idea -:)
The thin edge of the wedge. What will be next?
I enjoy full fat un-homogenised milk. Why should I be taxed for a natural product which is already hard to find and more expensive!
No weight problem here…….why?……..active, sensible lifestyle.
Each to their own, but don’t tax the active healthy.

mmap says:
8 October 2011

Only fascists could come up with such is a monstrous idea of a special tax on foods containing fats and you have to be really stupid to think that it would influence eating habits.

Where do you get unhomogenised milk, in fact where do you get green top milk these days?

Dave says:
8 October 2011

Bring back food rationing to save the NHS from the escalating numbers of folk who will unfortunately need it simply due to their lack of appetite control.

You must understand the government in the form of the NHS is the insurer of last resort AND as to all of your ailments and health problems howsoever arising….indeed it has a DUTY, I would go so far to say, to ensure you lead as healthy a lifestlye and eat as healthily as possible, and a proposed a ‘fat tax’ levied on certain foods as they have done in Denmark is entirely justified and about time too!

CHD or heart disease was once prevalent in Finland…. its rate is now amongst the lowest in the developed world, thanks in no small measure to the crusading zeal on the part of the authorities there
that has paid handsome dividends.

Seems to be an easy way to tax things that taste nice.

And because I can control my eating and try to balance things off, why should I pay to compensate those who can’t.

The Goverment seem to be labouring under a misapprehension if they think you only get fat by eating saturated fats such as butter, cream and cheese.

One approach to healthy eating and weight control is the Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) diet, so any approach which taxes the main constituents would not be good news.

The LCHF diet recognises that carbohydrates can increase appetite and become addictive, and that excess carbohydrates can lead to weight gain.
Protein, oils and fats on the other hand tend to supress appetite and can aid weight loss.

This is still a contentious subject although there is a surge of support for LCHF diets in Sweden at the moment.

As a Type 2 diabetic I have to try and control my weight and my blood sugar levels if I want to avoid a regime of drugs, and possibly eventually having to inject insulin.

My diet is radically different from the ‘healthy eating’ which is being pushed by the NHS which tends towards high carb low fat.
Carbohydrates turn quickly to sugar (the diabetics enemy).
Just put a small piece of white bread in your mouth and see how sweet it becomes as the saliva converts the starch to sugar.
I have to avoid simple carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, anything made from flour such as pies and pizza) and eat mainly protein, oils and fats, with goodly portions of lower carb vegetables and low GI beans and pulses.

This seems wierd and counter intuitive at first but I have found that I eat less, am less hungry, my weight has dropped and my blood sugars are much better.

Breakfast is the ‘Full English’ without the fried bread and potatoes.
This sets me up for most of the day.
Loads of protein snacks such as cheese wrapped in ham, chicken, sausages with a high meat content, along with salads.
Limited fruit, because fruit contains a lot of sugar.

Hah – on my pet subject again and rambling.

However it would be interesting to see how ‘junk’ a cheesburger would be if you kept the relish and threw away the bun and the fries. Oh, and didn’t have a supersize coke.
A burger, cheese, egg, pickles and salad could be a pretty good meal.

When I go shopping in a supermarket I avoid most of the aisles because they are stuffed full of things I can no longer eat.
They take up far more floor area then the vegetables, meat, and dairy.

Perhaps the government should consider taxing sweets, high carb snacks, cakes, biscuits, processed white bread and the like.
Far more of that goes through the supermarked checkout than butter, cheese and cream.
Perhaps a simple way would be taxing the sugar/carbohydrate content?
It is already listed on most foods.
Work it like road tax based on emissions but food tax based on carbohydrate content with an extra loading for sugar content.
It might just make us healthier (or perhaps just poorer).

Sadly, I don’t think a new tax is going to solve anything.
People still drink and smoke despite the high taxation, because both activities are addictive and people will therefore make sacrifices to feed their addiciton.
I would be interested in any reasearch to test if carbohydrates are addicitve – if so the government would tax them immediately 🙂



I like the Danish tax on saturated fat products. We know in the end that too much consumption of saturated fat will cause health problems and cost the taxpayer.
It find it annoying that unhealthy junk foods, sweets and cakes are often the ones with heavy supermarket BOGOF promotions whereas healthy choice food are often more expensive.
A tax “nudge” is the direction of healthy eating is not a bad thing at all.

A regressive tax ?
Think again ?

We don’t have to buy these products. If enough shoppers ignore them, they’ll take notice.

I mysalf think its about time our goverment for one needs to lay off dictating to us and let us be oursalfs i feel we are being pressured into a mould (dont smoke ,dont drink, dont be fat ect) i would love to know what happend to freedom of choice and free country that doesnt seem to exsist anymore.
if we were left alone i think that would solve the issue after all if your fat you dont need a doctor to tell you that you can see that for yoursalf….

It is very difficult to find unhomogenised milk these days.
Sainsbury sell Tast the Difference unhomogenised 750ml (round bottle). But, for a better tasting version try the Waitrose unhomoginised. Some of the better London stores also sell it.
I did say it was difficult to find and, if you do not live near any of these stores, I would say virtually, “impossible”.

Fortunately/Unfortunately (delete as per ones preference) there is both Sainsbury AND a Waitrose in Preston now, though I do not see Waitrose lasting long – Preston hasn’t the ‘demographic’, shall we say.