Danish decision to ditch fat and sugar taxes welcomed

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fat tax, Nutrition

Fat and sugar taxes are not the way to tackle obesity, according to the Danish government
Fat and sugar taxes are not the way to tackle obesity, according to the Danish government
Food manufacturers across Europe have welcomed Denmark’s plans to ditch its fat tax, as exclusively revealed by FoodManufacture.co.uk in August.

The Danish government confirmed its plans to abandon the controversial tax on Saturday (November 10), while revoking plans to introduce a sugar tax.

Terry Jones, director of communications at the Food and Drink Federation, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “It seems that the Danish government’s decision to remove its additional taxation on food is due to concerns about food affordability and the impacts on the industry. That the Danes have decided to abolish the measure after only a year also suggests that the measure has not delivered any discernible public health benefit.”

Jones added that the complex problem of obesity needed to be addressed through a range of interventions by many different players and manufacturers were keen to play their part. “Instead of imposing arbitrary taxes, we have to empower consumers to make healthier choices that will lead to a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle 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.”

Much loved brands

European food manufacturers’ representative FoodDrinkEurope said: “The decision by the Danish authorities confirms what food business operators and others have been saying in Europe since the introduction of this fiscal measure.”

This was that “discriminatory food taxes”​:

1) Generate higher food prices for consumers. That led to more cross-border shopping and job losses.

2) Were cumbersome to implement and create administrative and bureaucratic burdens.

3) Curb the competitiveness of Europe’s largest manufacturing industry.

4) Are ineffective in changing consumer behaviour in relation to complex issues such as diets and lifestyles that affect obesity trends.

The group claimed that international organisations, such as the World Health Organisation, and the European Commission acknowledge that nutrition education is key to tackling obesity.

Tackling obesity

“This necessitates collaborative actions where governments work together with other stakeholders – public health organisations, civil society representatives and industry – with each assuming its respective role, in order to help create systemic behavioural change among consumers,”​ said FoodDrinkEurope.  

The Danish government introduced a tax on foods that are high in saturated fats in October 2011.

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

The government had also planned to introduce a sugar tax in January 2013. The tax would have applied to products such as confectionery, yogurts and jams.

Speaking when the policy U-turn was first announced, a spokesman for the Danish Food & Allied Workers Union told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We are delighted that the government is abandoning the fat tax and dropping plans to introduce the sugar tax.

“Several firms – including chocolate maker Toms – had complained that the fat tax had led to lower sales, which had forced them to cut their workforce. We hope now that jobs will be saved.”


Fat tax – in numbers


  • One – years in existence
  • £1.70 – tax applied per kg of saturated fat
  • 47 – percentage of Danes who are overweight, according to the Danish National Health and Medicines Authority
  • 13 – percentage of Danes who are obese
  • 3M – children in UK, of whom 4.5M are overweight and 2.5M are obese​, according to Leeds Metropolitan University.


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