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A Short Lifespan for the Danish ‘Fat Tax’



Last year in Denmark the world’s first-ever fat tax was passed. No, it was not a tax on fat people– it is a tax on saturated fat in food. The law levied taxes on food items that were more than 2.3 percent saturated fat and the aim was to decrease the population’s consumption of saturated fats. However, despite strong support in the Danish legislature the tax was unpopular and had unwanted economic side effects. It is set to be abolished this year.

The Danish “Fat Tax”

Eating butter in Denmark got a lot more expensive last year. As did cheese, meat, and other foods high in saturated fat. The 2011 law taxed foods with more than 2.3 percent saturated fat, regardless of their other good or bad qualities.

Authorities speaking on the subject say that the matter isn’t so cut and dry– although the toast the Danes are eating might be since butter got so pricey. Some experts say that the legislature made their decision based on information from 2001 and in this case, a decade was enough to make that information obsolete. Saturated fat is not the health-wrecking monster it was made out to be, they say, instead, it is trans fats that are so dangerous.

The Danes are already avoiding transfats, thanks to the law that bans them in their country. This change seems to have caused a significant dip in the rate of heart disease in the Danish population so it seems transfats will remain persona non grata (fat-non-grata?) in the Danish diet. However, after the abolition of the fat tax, the Danes will be back to eating as much saturated fat as they please.

Officially, the reason that the fat tax is being cut is that it endangered Danish jobs by raising the cost of food. Danes had begun traveling to Germany to do their shopping, the ministry said. Unofficially, the tax was extremely unpopular with health officials and the general population alike because it taxed healthy foods like cheese at the same rate as junk food like chips.

Other Nations Fight the Bulge

In Japan, it is illegal to be a woman over the age of 40 and have a waist of more than 35.4 inches or a man over 40 with a waist of more than 33.5 inches. The goal of this law is to keep the Japanese from encountering high rates of metabolic syndrome, a condition where obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol combine to increase the risks of several health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. While the Japanese are some of the thinnest people in the world their rates of obesity and diabetes are on the rise.

Physical health exams are offered through your employer on a yearly basis in Japan. Those who are found to be breaking the law must undergo counseling. Employers whose workforces do not slim down 10 percent by 2012 and 25 percent by 2015 may have to pay more into the country’s elder-care program. Is this using social pressure for the best? Your opinion probably depends on your waist size.