Monday, February 15, 2010

Junk food taxation

For decades now a variety of taxation formulas to help fight obesity have been proposed. The idea is that if there's a financial repercussion to eating junk foods then consumption of these foods would cut back. None of these proposals have ever passed legislation, but it's interesting to read what nutritionists and legislators have been trying to do over the past three decades to fight obesity.

Many people feel the government has no place telling people what they can consume and yet taxation on alcohol and tobacco has existed for years. The fact remains that a fast food meal is decidedly less expensive than a healthy meal so no incentive exists to move to a healthier way of eating. If fast food were taxed and a subsidy provided to sustainable producers of fresh fruits and vegetables the balance would begin to change towards healthier eating trends.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that health problems associated with obesity account for a whopping $147 billion in health care expenses annually. A fast food tax can help offset these expenses and pay for obesity prevention initiatives.

This past fall the fast food tax concept reemerged as the Obama administration sought ways to pay for its proposed health care bill. Obama calls it a "sin tax" and said it's an idea worth exploring. His idea would be to impose a tax on soda and other sugary soft drinks.

Several years ago a similar tax was proposed in France which would almost triple VAT tax on junk food. Although France is the slimmest nation in Europe (followed by Italy) the French feel that it's a mistake to be complacent on the issue. Obesity needs to be addressed before it becomes a problem.

Effective next month Romania will be the first country to begin imposing a junk food tax. Fast foods, snacks, potato chips, soft drinks and the cake and candy making industry all will be taxed.
The proceeds of the tax will go towards funding health programs in the country.

Similar taxation proposals are being discussed in a variety of other countries and Taiwan plans to carry through on a junk food tax. Apparently 25% to 30% of Taiwanese children are now obese. The Bureau of Health Promotion is currently drafting the proposal and the tax should go into effect in early 2011. Taiwan is also planning to ban junk food ads on television.


  1. Ciao! While I think a junk food tax probably won't dissuade someone from having a Coke and a burger, if the tax money were used to subsidize fresh vegetables, then I'd be all for it. When a single small head of cauliflower is $3.99 or you can have a Dollar meal at McDonald's what would you choose?
    Want to really make your head explode, take a look at the US veggie libel laws...we're actually not allowed to say that soda is bad, we can say 'eat less sugar',but not drink less soda. How insane is that??