Scandinavian countries are often known for their tall women and high quality of life. Denmark is one of the most progressive countries when it comes to public health, as indicated by the “Fat Tax” of 2011. In 2011, Danish law makers passed a tax on saturated fats that raised roughly $216 million. By late 2012, the law was repealed, citing harmful impacts on businesses. Danes, it was found, would just drive to Germany to buy good ice cream and butter. However, in our growing health crisis, wouldn’t it be worth revisiting those ideas, and seeing what is possible?
While I am sure that many of the readers of this blog would vehemently oppose a tax on saturated fat (You may take our freedom, but never our bacon!!!), the potential of increasing the economic burden on unhealthy foods has seen light in the United States (Bloomberg’s Soda ban in NYC). Furthermore, Professor Olivier de Schutter of the World Health Organization is a major proponent of taxing unhealthy foods, citing the impact taxing has had on smoking.
Revisiting the Danish fat tax, it was found that it was primarily implemented to increase revenue, rather than combat public health issues. However, we now see that consumer behavior was changed by a marked decrease in consumption of saturated fat in Denmark during the time of the tax. Similar to increases in the price of tobacco, the fat tax was able to adjust what people bought. Noting the growth of grass-roots movements on public health in the United States, a tax aimed at improving health might gain some steam (but pass? I personally doubt it). If a trans fat or high fructose corn syrup tax was ever implemented, perhaps some of the revenue could be used to make healthy foods more available for schools and economically disadvantageous children, who have little control on what they eat.
Read more: Strom, S. (November 2012). “Fat Tax in Denmark is Repealed After Criticism” New York Times.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, volume 69.