Denmark proves fat taxes don’t work, say food manufacturers

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fat tax, Nutrition

Fat tax? No thanks, say the Danes and a lot of Brits
Fat tax? No thanks, say the Danes and a lot of Brits
UK food manufacturers claim Denmark’s decision to drop its fat tax and shelve plans for a sugar tax prove that such measures don’t work.

Commenting on the Danish move​ – as exclusively revealed by yesterday (August 30) – Terry Jones, director of communications at the Food and Drink Federation, said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that regressive fiscal measures such as additional taxes on food are not effective in driving changes in behaviour.

"All indications are that the tax on saturated fat in Denmark has failed to deliver a public health benefit and instead has proven too complicated and punitive to remain in place.”

Gaynor Bussell, independent dietitian, told “I never thought it would work. People like to eat certain things. They do not like to be coerced into not eating them by having the price put up. People want instant gratification.”

Bussell said food price elasticity studies dating back to the 1950s had proved many times that consumers do not respond to food price hikes. “Looking back, there’s just no indication that a fat tax would work.”

Mandatory controls

Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said the Danish experience showed that only mandatory controls on saturated, sugar and salt would work.

“The Danes have tried it. They have found the water too hot and given up. The clear message for the UK is that it is time for the government to get tough with food manufacturers and impose maximum acceptable levels of saturated fat, sugar and salt.”

But Jones said a better approach would be to empower consumers to make healthier choices that would lead to a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. “Food and drink manufacturers are playing their part by providing clear nutrition labelling, developing healthier choices and changing recipes to reduce the saturated fat, salt and energy content of many much loved brands,”​ he said.

Jones said food manufacturers recognised "the health burden of obesity and agree that this complex problem needs to be addressed through a wide range of interventions by many different players".

In Denmark tax was applied at the rate of £1.70 (16 Krone (kr) per kg of saturated fat on a range of food products including butter, milk, pizzas, oils, meats and pre-cooked foods.

Denmark’s fat tax was introduced in October 2011. It had planned to introduce a similar tax on sugar from January 1 2013.

Cost up to 1,300 jobs

The Danish Food and Agriculture Council said that the fat and sugar tax would cost up to 1,300 jobs and cost about £10.7M (Kr100M) in tax management fees.

The Danish Chamber of Commerce ceo Jens Klarskov said: “Fat tax means fewer jobs in the stores, because the Danes − as a result of price increases − buy fewer goods in Danish stores. We can already see that cross-border shopping [in Germany] has increased as a result of the fat tax. In addition, the fat tax means a lot of administrative hassle for businesses.”

In an exclusive poll of readers, 70% agreed the Danish experience showed fat taxes do not work while 8% said mandatory controls were needed to curb fat consumption.

A quarter said they did not know if fat controls would work.

To vote in the poll, click here​.

What's your view about taxing fat and sugar? Share your views with more than 60,000 industry professionals by posting a comment below.


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1 comment

Fat taxes

Posted by Elspeth Nicol,

The reason the Food and Drink Federation wants to "empower consumers to make healthier choices"' is because that isn't going to happen. And it won't work.

Let us assume that it would work, how many jobs would that cost?

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