Sunday, 2 October 2011

Denmark's Fat Tax

If a picture can paint a thousand lies then this Getty image above certainly fuels the fabrication, pushing as it does, the common misconception that saturated fat is bad for us.

Armed with ignorance, Denmark has moved to tax saturated fat, as reported by ABC,
  • "Denmark has introduced what’s believed to be the world’s first fat food tax, applying a surcharge to foods with more than 2.3 percent saturated fats, in an effort to combat obesity and heart disease."
The Danes have never struck me as an obese nation - and the infographic from Spiegel suggests that their population is one of the leanest in Europe:


Hmmm - let's see what other copyright I can infringe in my pop-look at Denmark's war on fat.  Heart disease was also mentioned as a driver for this tax.  Thankfully the WHO (no, not THAT Who, the other one), have these little graphics - albeit a decade old:


Doesn't currently look too bad for Denmark does it?  Same goes for their IQ.

Now I am not sure how elastic demand is for such a vital macro nutrient as saturated fat, but let's give it a decade and come back then.  I think that what Denmark has done will inspire governments across Europe.  Thankfully the French will tell Europe to 'fuck right off' with any such tax.  Britain will protest simply on the basis that it will be a European idea - (but our supine politicians may well follow suit in the short term). 

However, long term, this social experiment may actually break the conventional wisdom once Denmark's stats, as shown above, move in a rather dire direction.

I guess you're wondering what makes me so sure this will happen?  Well, once a tax is in place, and once obeisty and heart disease climb in Denmark, WHATEVER the evidence to the contrary, the first thing the politicians will do is reinforce the original crap decision to tax saturated fat and exascerbate the problem.  And why should this concern us?  Well, the favourable rates of obesity and CHD above are from a country whose dietary intake is '...characterized by a high intake of saturated fat and total fat, and by a relatively low intake of fruit and vegetables'.


In Denmark, median fat intake is 37% of energy, whilst median saturated fat is 16 % of energy.  If you look across Europe then we find that the average consumption of saturated fat across the 15 countries is 13.1% of energy consumed.  NOW go and look at those figures for CHD and obesity above again.  Denmark are actually eating nearly 3% more saturated fat than the European median!  Sure there are discrepancies with these kinds of figures, but 'something don't smell right'!

All we have to do is sit this one out.  When the student is ready, the teacher arrives.

1 comment:

N Matheson said...

Cameron is starting to think about imposing a sat fat tax here, It's very worrying for us as we are already being squeezed hard financially. There are fat people everywhere in the UK ( a country with one of the highest chocolate consumptions anywhere).