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Known as the happiest people in the world, Danes have one less thing to smile about today. Denmark has become the first country in the world to impose a “fat tax,” in an effort to curb unhealthy eating.
Introduced on Saturday, the tax is aimed at foods high in saturated fat, such as oil, butter, milk, cheese, meat and processed food items. Supermarket and menu items containing more than 2.3 percent saturated fat will be subject to the $2.90 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of saturated fat surcharge.
That amounts to about an extra 15 cents for a burger and 40 cents more for a small package of butter. Not exactly the kind of wallop to the wallet you might expect, but the Danish government hopes it will be enough of a deterrent to make its citizens think twice about buying artery-clogging foods.
The tax was approved by large majority in March as a move to help increase the average life expectancy of Danes by three years over the next 10 years. Their current life expectancy of 79 years falls below the world average – putting it in similar company as the United States, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Unlike the U.S., Denmark isn’t known for having a particularly rotund population. Only about 10 percent of their citizens are obese, compared to 30 percent of Americans.
This isn’t the first time junk food has taken a hit in the Nordic country. In 2004, Denmark made it illegal for any food to have more than 2 percent trans fats. And, last year, the country increased taxes on confections, like cookies, candy and ice cream by 25 percent. Their taxes on soda, tobacco and alcohol are also higher than those established by the European Union.
While all these price increases may help offset the cost of their public healthcare system, citizens want to know why the government doesn’t just make healthy food more affordable. If they really wanted its people to be healthier, they should be focused on making fresh fruits and vegetables more available and cheaper. As it stands, this new fat tax may do more in helping residents thin out their wallets rather than their waistlines.