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Nov 13, 2012

Fat tax; Aussie food fascists want it, Danes drops it

The ‘Obesity Policy Coalition’ is trumpeting a survey indicating that most consumers want a ‘fat tax’ to stop them putting on weight.  The favorite reaction these days to anything deemed undesirable seems to be the idea of taxing someone, or something.  Polls though tend to tell whatever story the people paying for them want if the right questions or preamble is used.  No methodology is given in the report.
But still, the food fanatics, frantics, and fascists are convinced that taxes and government coercion will make us all thin again
AUSTRALIANS support a tax on unhealthy foods and many want a total ban on junk-food advertising, research has found - the same measures the food industry has claimed would be too unpopular to succeed. 
More than two-thirds of the 1500 primary grocery buyers surveyed were in favour of a tax, while traffic-light labelling on all packaged foods also received strong support. 
But the government has so far refused to implement the same measures that are supported by the public, while the peak body for the food industry maintains ''traffic-light'' labelling of food by healthiness would not work. A leader of the Cancer Council of Victoria study, Jane Martin, said researchers were surprised that nearly 90 per cent of respondents had agreed that food manufacturers should be forced to cut fat, sugar and salt levels in processed foods. 
''I was shocked at the high public support for regulation, yet that sentiment is not something that has come through so far in this debate,'' said Ms Martin, of the Obesity Policy Coalition. ''That comes down to the power of [the food] industry, who have lobbied very hard against regulation.” …
Generally if questions are asked with sufficient references to some problem that has been highlighted frequently enough in the media as a serious ‘social problem’, an ‘epidemic’, ‘national disgrace’, or perhaps, a ‘looming health crisis’, then the persons interviewed tend to feel the heavy weight of expectation that they should, as responsible socially conscious citizens, be prepared to agree that a solution is needed.  This is normally the one that is helpfully offered at the time.
Others tend towards some misguided altruistic desire to be punished for the good of all, some are so self righteous that they believe only others will be affected, and more believe that the government has a responsibility to keep them trim, taut, and terrific, and if that means a tax, then so be it.
Curiously the Danes are abandoning their fat tax.  Europeans winding back the nanny state is a real turn-up for the books: 
Danish lawmakers have killed a controversial "fat tax" one year after its implementation, after finding its negative effect on the economy and the strain it has put on small businesses far outweigh the health benefits. 
Nations including Switzerland, the U.K, and Germany have held up the tax, which applies to any food containing more than 2.3% saturated fat, as a potential model for addressing obesity and other health concerns. But in Denmark, it has been a source of pain for consumers, food producers and retailers as the nation's economy struggles. 
"The fat tax is one of the most maligned we [have] had in a long time," Mette Gjerskov, the minister for food, agriculture and fisheries, said during a news conference Saturday announcing the decision to dump the tax. "Now we have to try improving the public health by other means." 
The failure of Denmark's fat tax is a demonstration of how difficult it can be to modify behavior by slapping additional duties on products seen by many as essential staples, especially during tough economic times. Products such as butter, oil, sausage, cheese and cream were subject to increases of as much as 9% immediately after the new tax was enacted. 
"What made consumers upset was probably that an extra tax was put on a natural ingredient," said Sinne Smed, a professor at the Institute of Food and Resource Economics. …

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