When Denmark announced it was implementing the world’s first fat tax on fast food, the question became, Will other countries adopt the same measure and will it strike a blow against obesity? The fat tax aims to reduce the rate of obesity-related disease, such as diabetes and coronary heart disease, by curbing the consumption of fatty foods and beverages. The Danish government announced a charge of $3 per two pounds of saturated fat in any product. This amounts to an increase of about 15 cents per hamburger and about 40 cents per stick of butter. The Danish government believes it will cost businesses $28 million a year. However, the government anticipates it will prolong the length and quality of life for Danes, thus saving millions more.
Earlier this past fall, British prime minister David Cameron announced that his government might introduce its own fat tax as part of the solution to Britain’s obesity problem. Around the same time, Hungary implemented the “Hamburger Law,” which involves higher taxes on soft drinks, pastries, salty snacks, and food flavorings. The United States has been considering taxing unhealthy food since as far back as the 1940s, but the idea continues to face opposition among Republicans and the junk food lobbies. Studies have shown the tax would have to be significant to affect behavior and would disproportionately hit low-income individuals, who are also those most likely to suffer from obesity.
Will worldwide momentum help galvanize the proponents of the idea in the United States? Perhaps it will be encouraged if Denmark can show it makes a difference.