COPENHAGEN (AP) -- Denmark has imposed a “fat tax” on foods such as butter and oil as a way to curb unhealthy eating habits.
The Nordic country introduced the tax Saturday, of 16 kroner ($3.00) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of saturated fat in a product.
Ole Linnet Juul, food director at Denmark’s Confederation of Industries, says the tax will increase the price of a burger by around $0.15 and raise the price of a small package of butter by around $0.40.
The tax was approved by large majority in a parliament in March as a move to help increase the average life expectancy of Danes.
Denmark, like some other European countries, already has higher fees on sugar, chocolates and soft drinks, but Linnet Juul says he believes the Nordic country is the first in the world to tax fatty foods.
In September, Hungary introduced a new tax popularly known as the “Hamburger Law,” but that only involves higher taxes on soft drinks, pastries, salty snacks and food flavorings.
The outgoing conservative Danish government planned the fat tax as part of a goal to increase the average life expectancy of Danes, currently below the OECD average at 79 years, by three years over the next 10 years.
While Finland and Romania reportedly are considering similar taxes, other countries in Europe are also watching the Danish tax closely.
Politicians in Belgium are debating whether the country should start a "fat tax" of its own. While some politicians welcome the tax as a possible way to target Europe's growing obesity numbers, others argue that the tax would do little to change consumer habits. "Obviously we have to do something about our living habits," Belgian senator Louis Ide tells De Standaard in Dutch. "Yet a fat tax will not do the trick. A tax does not change unhealthy eating patterns, it only fills the treasury."
In Britain, which has Europe's highest obesity numbers, some campaigners would welcome an initiative such as the one in Denmark. Speaking to The Guardian, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum Tam Fry said, "It is not a question of whether we should follow the Danes' lead -– we have to. If we don't do anything about it, by 2050, 70% of the British population will be obese or overweight and that would result not only in the downfall of the NHS but also of our national workforce."
Mike Rayner, director of Oxford University's Health Promotion Research Group, thinks the current obesity percentages will ultimately force the UK to follow the Danish example. Although the British Health Minister Andrew Lansley has not expressed support for such taxes, Rayner says he thinks the UK is going to instate them "whether Mr. Lansley wants them or not." He told The Telegraph: "The obesity crisis in the UK is such that we need to take more action."