COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Well lookee here: the inevitable move toward taxing unhealthful foods to raise income and discourage damaging diets has begun. Last month, Hungary, almost unnoticed, began taxing foods with high levels of fat, salt and sugar. And earlier this week, with just a little more fanfare, Denmark instituted an excise tax on foods high in saturated fat.
By our standards, the Danes aren’t even that fat: their obesity rate is about nine percent (it could be all that bike-riding), well below the European average of 15 percent and less than a third the rate of Americans. More startling, perhaps, is that the tax was introduced by a center-right government that was simply looking for new revenues. Although it met resistance, its passage was never really in doubt, because it was supported by both the right and the left. The tax was approved in a vote that ran about 90 percent in favor, and instituted at a rate of 16 Kroner (just under $3) per kilo, which will mean a half-pound of butter will rise in cost by about 15 cents.
(Read the full column here.)