Fat Tax Stops Spare Tyres (And Spare Cash)

The Good Life Letter

Friday 14th October 2011

  • Fat Tax begins in Denmark 
  • Think a stodgy body's directly linked to a stodgy diet? Think again!
  • Government guidelines on healthy eating - are you confused?

Wandering around the local supermarket, I do find myself drawn to the Danish specialties. A nice few rashers of Danish bacon for a breakfast butty, some meat balls for lunch and a multi-pack of crunchy Dime bars to keep the kids happy.

If it weren't for my daily walk with the dog, I'd be packing on the pounds. In Denmark, it's soon going to be pretty easy to shed the pounds though (from your wallet not your waist-line!) thanks to the new Danish Fat Tax.

If you hadn't heard already, the Danes have recently introduced a tax on any foods containing over 2.3% saturated fat. That means for every pack of butter they buy, they'll pay an extra 25p (or 2.14 DKK to be precise)

The Danes have reasoned that it's their civic duty to look after the nation's health and save themselves a few bob in the bargain.

By upping the price of salty, sugary and fatty foods, they're aiming to avoid the obesity crisis seen throughout the rest of Europe and keep their people trim and fit.

Is the industry in agreement?
Fat chance!

The Danish Chamber of Commerce has already opposed the initiative, not on economic grounds, but unbelievably on HEALTH grounds. They are claiming that this tax will actually harm Danish citizens.

Mad but true; their argument is that food producers will be forced to put HARMFUL additives into foods to retain texture and taste.

I'm not sure I quite follow this logic chaps, but having said that I don't think either camp is right on this one. I wholeheartedly applaud any decision to directly target poor quality food, especially that which uses cheap fillers like saturated fats, salt and sugar. No one wants those kind of poisons clogging up their systems!

These compounds are absolutely responsible for the current health issues, of this there is no doubt, and it makes sense to control them.

The problem I have is that I think the Danish government has targeted the wrong fats first. In my book, the evils of sugar and salt-rich foods are much worse than fat-rich ones.

I also detest the threatening response from Danish industry... either you let us put fat in your food or we'll do something even nastier!

Fats in our diets are a topic close to our hearts (literally!) because they make great tabloid copy and even better pictures. We're all shocked by the media's fatal statistics and pictures of moobs, muffin tops and bingo wings which we battle against on a daily basis.

One big fat lie that the media like to push is the link between fat in the diet and fat in the body. Surprised? There's no need to be, it's really very simple!

When we eat fat, our bodies quickly break it down to create a pool of fatty acids which are of immediate use to us. Rarely do these fatty acids get used as energy stores, and if they do they get stored close to the organs which need them, like the liver.

We need fat for the correct function of every one of our cells, where they form part of the phospholipid complex that makes up cell walls; they are vital for healthy brain and nerve function and even form the marrow within our bones.

Carbohydrates, like sugar, on the other hand are always broken down to glucose which can only be stored as glycogen in muscles, or as triglycerides in fat deposits under the skin.

There is, therefore, a direct link between carbohydrate intake and fat in the body.

Muddled nutrition thinking about this difference stems back to the war when the country was at risk of malnutrition, and sweet substances were heavily rationed.
Fatty meat was a way to build energy and fill empty bellies.

Then the boom of the 1980's came along and the focus changed away from healthy fats to unhealthy processed foods. Speed of preparation and food branding became more important than true nutritionally benefit.

We were swept along on a wave of consumerism which delighted in take-away food and microwave convenience.

Far from helping our national health the government became slaves to the big business interests of the producers and retailers, and the tax revenues that came their way.

Allowing the likes of McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Coca-Cola to dominate over fresh, traditional corner shop produce means that our attitude towards food has radically changed. It's 21st century fast food culture at its finest.

So what do we do to break out of the junk food rut? Well, firstly, I think we need clearer guidelines from the government. Here's what I propose:

How the Government can guide us In making wiser food choices

- Tax the producers of high carbohydrate and high salt foods, at the source not through the consumer

- Stop with the nonsense of traffic light systems and alcohol points and instigate a clear good food/bad food labelling     system with simple advice that we can all follow such as eating 3 well balanced meals a day with healthy snacks such as  fruit and nuts in between

- Ensure food retailers are honest about their 'in store home made' products which will prevent them from reheating processed  breads, cakes and pastries and pretending that they are artisan bakers.

Yours, as always


P.S Just in case you thought I had forgotten... I hope you will all be glued to your TV tomorrow morning cheering our gallant boys on against the French!







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