Sweden needs a fat tax to tackle obesity: expert
Published: 30 Sep 2011 16:53 GMT+02:00
Updated: 30 Sep 2011 16:53 GMT+02:00
A leading Sweden nutrition expert on Friday argued that Sweden should follow neighbours Denmark and introduce a tax on fats in order to help in the fight against obesity.
Denmark's "fat tax" is set to come into force on October 1st.
“I think we need a tax on saturated fat and on sugar, and perhaps above all, on soft drinks,” said Claude Marcus at Karolinska Institute to The Local.
Marcus explained that for the last 20 to 30 years, Sweden has undergone a very unhealthy price level shift, where candy and soda has become cheaper, while vegetables and fruits are getting increasingly expensive.
“This is an imbalance that’s harmful to the public health,” he said.
“Sweden has never before seen as much obesity and overweight people, and it’s a problem that costs 20 billion kronor ($2.9 billion) per year. Type 1 diabetes continues to increase and we don’t exactly know why, but we know that your lifestyle certainly affects it.”
But what Marcus suggests is not necessarily something that would make grocery shopping more expensive to Swedes, perhaps just change the balance.
“I think it’s reasonable when you know the dangers of these products, that you adjust taxes,” Marcus argued. “There would be a quite substantial tax for soft drinks and saturated fat, and use that money to lower or remove sales tax on fresh vegetables.”
In spite of this awareness and comparable tax increases for alcohol and tobacco, this is not a big debate in Sweden. Marcus finds this surprising since polls have shown a positive attitude among Swedes for the amendment in taxes.
According to a report from TV4 news, the average Swede eats more than 15 kilogrammes of candy per year, which is about double the European average.
Annica Sohlström, Head of the Nutrition Department at the National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket), said this is a result of the popularity of pick-and-mix candy.
“There aren’t many countries in the world that has this model where you pick your candy with a big spoon into a big bag,” Sohlström told TV4. “It’s easy to buy a lot more than what you had in mind.”