Danes Say “Cheese” as Fat Tax Is Repealed

By:  Michael Tennant
11/13/2012
       
Danes Say “Cheese” as Fat Tax Is Repealed

The Danish government repealed a year-old tax on fatty foods because it wasn't keeping Danes from eating them and was causing job losses.

“The suggestions to tax foods for public health reasons are misguided at best and may be counterproductive at worst. Not only do such taxes not work, especially when they choose the wrong foods to tax, they can become expensive liabilities for the businesses forced to become tax collectors on the government’s behalf.”

So declared the government of Denmark in announcing that it was repealing its year-old tax on fatty foods. Since October 1, 2011, any food sold in Denmark containing over 2.3 percent saturated fat has been subject to a $1.29-per-pound tax on the fatty portion of the food. The price of butter, which is 63 percent saturated fat, increased by 90 cents per pound; cheese rose 50 cents per pound; and lard shot up $1.40 per pound.

All of this, of course, was done in the name of public health. Making these allegedly unhealthful foods more expensive was supposed to drive Danes to more healthful alternatives, thereby reducing obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The law was popular among the political elites, with nearly 90 percent of the Danish parliament voting in favor of it. “But few outside the government seem to think it’s a good idea — or even a healthy one,” Time magazine observed at the time. Now even the government admits that it was a bad idea — so bad that a planned tax on sugary foods has also been scrapped.

Clearly one year was insufficient time in which to determine whether the tax had improved Danes’ health. However, it was plenty of time to discover the tax’s negative effects.

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