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Hungary Introduces Europe’s First ‘Fat Tax’

From Germany’s Der Spiegel:

Hungary Introduces ‘Fat Tax’

By Catherine Cheney
September 1, 2011

… Beginning Sept. 1, Hungarians will have to pay a 10 forint (€ 0.37) [$.53] tax on foods with high fat, sugar and salt content, as well as increased tariffs on soda and alcohol. The expected annual proceeds of €70 million [$100 million] will go toward state health care costs, including those associated with addressing the country’s 18.8 percent obesity rate, which is more than 3 percent higher than the European Union average of 15.5 percent according to a 2010 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development…

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said, "Those who live unhealthily have to contribute more." In other words, the new law is based on the idea that those whose diets land them in the hospital should help foot the bill, particularly in a country with a health care deficit of €370 million [$527 million].

The controversial "fat tax" is the most comprehensive on unhealthy foods in the world to date; but with other European countries closely watching Hungary’s move, it is unlikely to be the last. Obesity rates are rising across Europe, and several countries are already taxing unhealthy foods to tackle plunging budgets and expanding waistlines.

Denmark is one of several European countries to tax sodas, and it has imposed a levy on candy for nearly 90 years. The country was the first in the world to pass a law banning trans fats, with Austria and Switzerland following closely after. Later this year, Denmark also plans to levy a sin tax on foods with high saturated fat content

Initially dubbed the "hamburger tax," the new legislation is now referred to as the "chip tax" or "fat tax," because it applies to products like packaged snacks and sugary drinks rather than fast food.

"The Hungarian tax is a tax on products with high sugar, salt, and/or caffeine; taxable products include soft drinks with added sugar, energy drinks with added sugar and caffeine, pre-packaged sweetened products, salty snacks, high salt content condiments, soup mixes, gravy mixes and bases," explained Lisa McCooey, director of communications for Food Drink Europe, an industry lobby group.

Is that all?

Hungarians already spend 17 percent of their income on food, and they pay an extra 25 percent tax on most of the food and drink products they consume — one of the highest rates within the EU. A major criticism of the new tax is that it will hit low-income groups the hardest, given their higher consumption, on average, of processed foods

Who cares if the poor starve? As Michelle ‘Antoinette’ Obama might say, ‘Don’t let them eat cake!’

There are also questions over the effectiveness of fat-tax legislation. The growing list of taxes on unhealthy foods is leading to a debate on whether an increase in taxes can actually translate to a decrease in obesity.

"Scientific research shows that taxation is not an effective instrument in addressing consumer behavior and will have no impact on obesity rates," McCooey argued

Ms. McCooey must be right. Otherwise, nobody would still smoke. Or live in New York City.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, September 2nd, 2011. Comments are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Hungary Introduces Europe’s First ‘Fat Tax’”

  1. proreason says:

    The human body is oriented toward storing fat. It helped early man survive hard times.

    So now they are taxing human nature.

    Next, they will want to tax fornication.

  2. 12 Gauge Rage says:

    I thought only the U.S. had fat people. You mean they can be found elsewhere on this planet? Leave it to the European leaders to find yet another way to tax their people. As if they aren’t already taxed enough. Europe needs their own Tea Party!

  3. Mr_Write says:

    I don’t think it is fair that people who are so Hungary have to pay this tax. (sorry…couldn’t resist) :)

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