As of October First, Denmark implemented a new tax on foods called the fat tax. Approved by 90% of Danish voters, the tax is about 2.3 percent extra on foods containing saturated fat. In the United States, that amounts to about an extra $1.32 per pound of food containing saturated fat. A hamburger, for example, might cost an extra 15 cents. While it doesn’t sound like much, some feel taxing unhealthy foods is a direct limitation of their first amendment rights.
While the U.S. government has played around with the idea of a “sugar tax,” or a “fat tax,” similar to Denmark’s, a bill has not yet been brought to voters. Denmark’s obesity rates are about a third of our own, about where our obesity rates were in 1990. Might this be helpful to our cause in the United States today? So far, resistance has been felt by food giants like Coke and McDonald’s fighting against the tax, likely in an effort to preserve their profits. Surprising to some, the bill received the most backlash from consumers themselves. “Get away from my French fries” said Glenn Beck regarding the bill.
Hypothetically, if the United States began to tax consumers an extra 2% on fast foods, over $2 billion dollars could be raised. This money could be invested in subsidizing local farmers instead of huge nameless companies, or even be put directly into the public school’s lunch budgets! In broader terms, the money could provide healthier options at lower costs. Ideally, we could also cut our medical bills as well. Americans spent over $444 billion in 2011, just treat heart disease and stroke, both directly linked to unhealthy food choices.
Would taxing unhealthy foods help? Not without advocating for healthier and cheaper food choices, as well. Especially in our children’s schools!
Photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee