Denmark has imposed the world’s first “fat tax” in a drive to slim its population and cut heart disease.The move may increase pressure for a similar tax in the UK, which suffers from the highest levels of obesity in Europe.
Starting from this Saturday, Danes will pay an extra 30p on each pack of butter, 8p on a pack of crisps, and an extra 13p on a pound of mince, as a result of the tax.
The tax is expected to raise about £140 million, and cut consumption of saturated fat by close to 10pc, and butter consumption by 15pc.
“It’s the first ever fat-tax,” said Mike Rayner, Director of Oxford University’s Health Promotion Research Group, who has long campaigned for taxes on unhealthy foods.
“It’s very interesting. We haven’t had any practical examples before. Now we will be able to see the effects for real.” The tax will be levied at 2.5 per Kg of saturated fat and will be levied at the point of sale from wholesalers to retailers.
Less than 10pc of Danes are clinically obese, putting them slightly below the European average.
But researchers at Denmark’s Institute for Food and Economic estimate that close to 4pc of the country’s premature deaths are a result of excess consumption of saturated fats.
For Britain, where more than 20pc of the population is obese, the number will be considerably higher.
A 2007 study by Mr Rayner’s group concluded that a combination of taxes on healthy foods and tax breaks on fruit and vegetables could save 3,200 lives a year in the UK.
Health Minister Andrew Lansley has up until now resisted calls for taxes on unhealthy foods, but Mr Rayner said they were the only credible way to combat Britain’s obesity problem.
“I think we’re going to have them in Britain whether Mr Lansley wants them or not, because the obesity crisis in the UK is such that we need to take more action.