Is a fat tax coming to Australia New Zealand-min

Is a “Fat Tax” Coming to Australia and New Zealand?

With Denmark having just been the first country to introduce a “Fat Tax”, the online community has been awash with criticism.  Will governments in Australia and New Zealand impose similar legislation onto us in the future?

What’s happening in Denmark?

Denmark already had additional taxes on sugar, chocolate and soft drinks, but they have just introduced a tax on saturated fat.  A tax of 16 kroner ($2.95 AUD/ $3.72 NZD) per kilo of saturated fat, where the product contains over 2.3% fat, will be passed onto the consumer.  This would add about 50 cents AUD to the price of a pack of butter.  So if my calculations are correct, that would add on about $2.50 AUD to the one litre tin of coconut oil I bought last week – but under 30 cents AUD to the same volume of cheap, nasty vegetable oil?  The calculation sounds overly complex and it based on the fat used in creating a product, rather than the percentage fat in the final product.  This sounds like a recipe for Frankenfoods, rather than whole, unprocessed foods…

The motives of Denmark, which are to increase the countries average life expectancy, may be honourable.  However, their execution is based solely on the incorrect lipid hypothesis; despite it now becoming more widely accepted that saturated fat is not the cause of obesity and heart disease.

I also have serious concerns about a government deciding what we should or should not eat.  Where people have access to health information and resources it should be their choice what they eat.  This is even more imperative where the government in question is basing their health views on incorrect, outdated fads such as the lipid hypothesis.  Such a fat tax penalises eating a healthy Paleo diet, despite this being, what I would consider, the healthiest diet going.

Would-a-Fat-Tax-Target-the-Right-Fats Australia New Zealand-min

Would a “Fat Tax” target the right fats?

What about Australia?

With 60% of Australian adults and 40% of children being classed as obese, the “Obesity Policy Coalition” is lobbying for a “fat tax”, using the proceeds gained from “unhealthy” foods to subsidise “healthy” foods.  I've found it very hard to get to the bottom of what this coalition considers “unhealthy” foods, but have written to them to ask them to clarify this (I'll keep you updated if I get a response).  Looking on their site however, I fear they subscribe to the lipid hypothesis – which may mean they would endorse taxing on a similar basis to Denmark.

A proposal was bought to the Australian government in 2009 by the “National Preventative Health Taskforce” calling for a tax on “unhealthy foods” (again, I've not been able to see exactly what they define as “unhealthy” in this context).  This was not responded to by the government.  Indeed the federal health minister Nicola Roxon has recently said that the government are putting their efforts into tackling obesity using methods other than administration.  Hopefully this means no “fat tax” in Australia in the near future.

And New Zealand?

The “Food Industry Group of New Zealand” last week spoke out on the new tax in Denmark, saying it is very unlikely to have any positive effects on obesity levels.  They feel the tax will make food more expensive and could actually put health of children and elderly at risk.  They will not be recommending a similar fat tax in New Zealand.

So it looks like in this part of the world, we’ll continue to be free to make our own food choices.  I'm interested to see how the new tax is received in Denmark and how it changes the eating habits and health of the nation.

What do you think?  Should government dictate what we eat, using taxes?  Would a tax on all foods that aren't Paleo be justified?

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11 replies
  1. Sigi
    Sigi says:

    Argh, the poor paleo Danes! As soon as I heard about this last week, I immediately thought of our nanny-state government seeing the Danish legislation and getting inspired to do the same to us here in Australia. They had better not! (Now there’s a political demo I’d enthusiastically attend…)

  2. Cassiel
    Cassiel says:

    Oh, I so feel for Denmark at the moment! Especially while nearby Sweden is embracing LCHF to the degree that they can’t keep up the demand for butter! Denmark should be looking to their neighbours for ideas, methinks. 😉

    That said, I honestly don’t believe any government has the right to tell us what we can and can’t eat. They’re in NO position to make that sort of decision for us, and even if they did have the right information available to them (which they don’t) they still don’t have the right. I think Tom Naughton over at Fat Head did a lovely eloquent post about this recently.

    Governments have been interfering in telling us what to eat for the last half a century, and look where they’ve gotten us already. The more they interfere, the worse it gets, and I fear these fat taxes are going to be a prime example of that!

    I think they need to take a step back and take a good look at their meddling and ask themselves if hands-off wouldn’t be a better approach… but I don’t expect that of ANY politician in my lifetime! 😛

  3. Clint
    Clint says:

    I was talking about this with my clients the other day. I think instead of taxing people to eat fat they need to work out a way to subsidise and make healthy food cheaper. At the moment Eating healthy is an expensive prospect. I know in the long run it works out to save me money when I dont have a heart attack but for the average person this does not come into their calculations. I also think people should put a bit of pressure on private health funds to start offering rebates on personal training. We need to turn this obesity debarcle around.

    • PaleoGirl
      PaleoGirl says:

      I completely agree Clint. It can be very expensive to eat healthily – a litre of coconut oil can be in the region of $30; compare to $1 for “vegetable” oil – it must make it almost impossible for some families to make the healthier choice. Even basic fruit and veg can get very expensive too – subsidising these foods would make so much more sense, than taxing people for eating fat.

      I hope health funds do give rebates on PT sessions. Mine are expensive, but I justify it as one of the most valuable investments I can make to my future health.

      Great to see a PT with more of an evolutionary view point, instead of the common low-fat/ high carb diet so many PT’s seem to encourage.


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