Advocates of government intervention on obesity have suffered a blow to their cause, as the Danish government today announced it was canning its pioneering ‘fat tax’ after just one year.
The tax, which came into effect in October 2011 and was believed to be the first of its kind in the world, added an additional surcharge to foods, including dairy products, meats and processed foods, that contain more than 2.3% saturated fat, and was intended to help tackle Denmark’s growing obesity problem.
It has been scrapped as part of a national budget deal between the government and the far-left Enhedslisten party, with a similar surcharge on high sugar products - which was due to come into force in 2013 - also ditched.
Since coming into force last year, the tax had been heavily criticised by retailers and food manufacturers, who argued the levy placed excessive red tape on them, inflated food prices and put jobs at risk. Further doubt over the efficacy of the tax was raised by a study by the University of Copenhagen this week, which suggested the tax had had no effect on Danish consumers’ eating habits.
Jim Begg, director-general of Dairy UK, welcomed the scrapping of the tax, which he said was a “thinly disguised budgetary measure” that had little to do with health. “It’s a good thing that it has now been abandoned,” he said. “It was impossible to implement practically, caused trade distortions and was opposed by most scientists and nutritionists.”
Begg added that a healthy balanced diet required the consumption of some fat. “It’s important to ensure that the foods we get our fats from also provide a lot of other nutrients, which milk, cheese and yoghurts do,” he added.