Main Article Image
General Health

A Food Fat Tax?

By tradition, the Danish are connoisseurs of home baking. Their rich, sumptuous buttery Danish pastries made from mostly home grown organic produce are mouth watering!

As a kid I holidayed regularly in Denmark and loved my pastries or 'Stollen'. Though my parents ensured I didn’t over indulge and encouraged me to join the majority of Danes who seem to travel mostly by bike or foot.

Hardly surprising then that despite the sweet treats, the Danes, and Scandinavian generally, don’t suffer the same high levels of obesity and associated health complication of many other Western countries.

So why on earth has their government become the first in the world to introduce a tax on food high in saturated fat?

Why a Food fat Tax?

Butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed food are now subject to the tax if they contain more than 2.3% saturated fat.

Why? The answer is simple.

They may be among the slimmest in Europe but the Danes do not want to end up as fat as the British or Americans!

According to the Panorama investigation, ordinary folk are mostly OK with this tax, and don’t appear to resent the government adding further to their grocery bills. They understand that with rising worldwide obesity rates, this is a wise preventative measure. One Danish couple said.

"We ruin ourselves and somebody has to take action. So if we can't do it, then the government should make health for the people," said Karina.

Charlotte Kira Kimby of the Danish Heart Foundation denies that the new taxes amount to government ‘nannying’.

"We still have the same free choice to buy the things we would like to buy in the shops. What is happening with this kind of tax is that we actually just see the state going in and balancing price because it is cheap to produce food with a high content of sugar, fat and salt."

Perhaps not surprisingly, the ‘processed foodists’ are not so sanguine! They claim that the tax is a bureaucratic nightmare.

Chief executive of leading chocolate company Toms, Jesper says firms like his are already reducing the calorie content of their products in response to customer demand.  "It just makes it very complicated to be a confectionery producer in Denmark. We already have some of the highest labour costs in the world," he said.

Wrong Targets?

Others argue that saturated fat may be the wrong target.

They say salt, sugar and refined carbohydrates are more detrimental to health and should be tackled instead.

We totally agree.

As many of you know, we believe that Saturated fat in moderation is essential for optimal health.

Besides which, as Certified Nutrition Specialist Mike Geary points out there is actually little sound empirical proof that moderate saturated fat is harmful in any way. His views are endorsed by Mary Enig a  PhD in nutritional biochemistry.

What do you think?

If fatty foods were taxed in your country would it make you change your eating habits? Or would you be furious about the food police telling you what to eat? Especially if the scientific ‘proof’ justifying the ‘tax’ was ‘shonky’!

Do you agree with obesity expert Professor Peter Kopelman of the Royal College of Physicians who argues that the UK could learn a lesson from the lean Danes?

He believes that there is a clear parallel with the taxation of cigarettes. When cigarettes were taxed, there was an immediate decline in the numbers bought.

"We also saw that there was a decline in the diseases that complicate cigarette smoking. I think there are lessons to learn for unhealthy food."

Or are you more sympathetic with the view of The UK Health Secretary Andrew Lansley who says “Nudges are very important. Tax is not a nudge, tax is a shove. If you start down the route of taxation, quite often you get quite a lot of push back against that. The public don't think it's our job to be trying to tell people what to do."

Read his lips. No new taxes.

My view is that the Danes are targeting the wrong thing: the real culprit is refined sugars and processed foods NOT saturated fats.

I also find the view of Karina above interesting: "We ruin ourselves and somebody has to take action. So if we can't do it, then the government should make health for the people."

Do you agree that you have no role in ‘ruining yourself’?

I know for a fact that my health decline into Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis was largely a result of the wrong lifestyle choices I made.

It will be interesting to see how this develops.


  • “Very useful article – links to other sites are worth reading. So many conflictindg messages out there!”

    Chris w October 26 2011

  • “"If fatty foods were taxed in your country would it make you change your eating habits? Or would you be furious about the food police telling you what to eat? Especially if the scientific proof justifying the tax was shonky!" I can’t think of anything that the government would/could do that would make me change my eating habits. What we eat should be a personal choice and certainly not dictated by the government. They are not my dieticians, they have no training in nutrition and are more interested in collecting their fees from huge food lobbies. Their "experts" depend on extremely flawed science to support their position. The government needs to stay out of the nutrition business . . . it’s not their job. The government has done more harm for the last 50 years with their dietary advice. It’s because of them that we are even having this conversation! When the government started to give dietary advice, we began to become very fat and ill. They need to keep away from my kitchen! I believe we would be much better off if we all simply inverted that food pyramid and ignored "coventional wisdom". How long are we going to keep doing as we’re told WHEN IT IS OBVIOUSLY NOT WORKING!”

    PJ October 27 2011

  • “Good article. I’m not a scientist, so I won’t judge what is healthy and not healthy, but from a societal perspective, despite been a libertarian, such regulation actually seems correct. Why? I’m paying the same taxes as anybody else in my country (Slovakia). I try to live a healthy lifestyle, which in the end means I don’t have to be treated by the public health system. On the other hand, there are those who live a non-healthy lifestyle, eating fats, not moving around. These people turn out to have health issues and turn to the public health system to be treated. This means, that they receive more from the public system than myself, despite paying the same tax. I feel that I’m subsidising their bad lifestyle. It’s only fair that those who wish to live unhealthy, pay for their choice. By imposing this unhealthy-food tax, it not only brings some fairness to the system, but actually teaches the people to be aware of the relation between what they eat and how they feel. I only wish something similar would be imposed in my country.”

    Tomas Buday October 27 2011

  • “My opinion: They target the wrong thing. Fats are not bad. And saturated fat is not just one thing. In fact, some saturated fats are vital for strong health. Take Coconut oil, this has saturated fats of medium-chain <span id= x_google-navclient-highlight >acids and it is perhaps one of the most healthy natural substances in the world. Now this will be taxed and therefore limited in Denmark. Yes, as one says, we still have the option! True, but only if you can afford it! Limiting fructose and white sugar that would make some sense as much research conclude these as almost toxic. But, even here it would collide with common sense. Although fructose intake should be limited they are often packed together with lots of other wonderful vitamins and nutrition in e.g. fruits. Another Danish example: Cars are taxed 180% plus a tough year tax. Argument is that they want to limit those nasty polluting things (by the way this tax is the reason many bicycle in Denmark, it is not by healthy choice as many foreign media seem to suggest form time to time). This tax argument also holds some validity although the result is that Denmark is now dominated by old rusting and polluting cars instead of the modern and more fuel efficient ones we have to day. Hit and a miss! Is the answer tax? No, the answer is education and information if the target is better health. In fact the answer is always education and information in a free and democratic world. However, the question is if that is the true target? I doubt it!”

    Jon October 27 2011

  • “<p class= x_MsoNormal ><span lang= EN-US >The apparent "health" reasons to have a law against saturated fats consumption is not based in science but it is more another government regulating every aspect of the of the life of citizens, taking away their freedom with every step. <p class= x_MsoNormal ><span lang= EN-US >First, saturated fats have been on human diet for millions of years. Since the early 50s the grain oil industry have blame saturated fat for everything bad with our health without any scientific proof. There are thousands of scientific studies trying to prove saturated fat causes heart disease, not even one has proved it. What have been proved is that all grains oils contain hydrogenated fats that cause heart disease. Trans fats are the devil in this case, not saturated fats. <p class= x_MsoNormal ><span lang= EN-US >Fats are not fattening or bad for health, they are essential for good health. It is just these low fat diets that produce heart disease from their high sugar and starch content, making the new generations fats from their youth. Not fat or saturated fat. There are good and bad fats. <p class= x_MsoNormal ><span lang= EN-US >Please, read more at”

    alfredoe October 29 2011

Leave a Comment

You may also like...

Subscribe to our Health Matters Newsletter