By Eloise King | First published: November 13, 2011
body+soul, The Sunday Telegraph
We ask the nutrition experts whether Australia should adopt a fat tax.
When Denmark introduced the world’s first “fat tax” last month, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) ran an online poll asking: should Australia increase taxes on unhealthy foods?
Of the 1032 voters, 70 per cent said yes and 30 per cent no*, suggesting considerable support for a junk-food price hike. Despite Australians being among the fattest people on the planet – and a quarter of our children now obese – the government says a fat tax is not on the menu. Here, health experts weigh in.
“A tax should apply to junk food, sweets and carbonated drinks”
Dr Steve Hambleton, president of the Australian Medical Association.
“People complain about us turning into a nanny state, but the AMA poll provides pretty strong evidence that most people are in favour of an unhealthy food tax. The health impacts of things like smoking, alcohol and junk food are not covered by the tax already imposed on these things. But they should be.”
“A junk-food tax already exists in Australia in theory. Health food items don’t attract the goods and services tax (GST), which was introduced in 1999, but junk food does. The problem is that when GST was rolled out, the price of healthy food increased too because of taxes on things like freight and petrol. There have been various policies introduced in school canteens to change the nature of food available, based on reducing the amount of saturated fat, sugar and salt. But when food manufacturers got this information, they simply started putting less potato crisps into tiny packets so they kept within the specified amount of fat in one serving.”
“A junk-food tax’s revenue must be invested in health promotion”
Dr Ronald McCoy, from the Royal Australian College Of General Practitioners
“We need a punitive tax on junk food so healthier foods become economically appealing. But it must be part of a broader, multi-faceted approach to addressing lifestyle-related illnesses. The money raised must go back into health promotion. We spend so many resources on reducing the impact of alcohol, but research shows low fruit and vegetable consumption imposes the same health risks.”
* At the time of printing