Fat Tax on Junk Food

Published on July 27, 2007 in Diet & Nutrition


In an effort to discourage the levels of obesity in Britain, recent research is recommending a tax on unhealthy foods, such as those high in sugar, fat and salt. They claim that this ‘fat tax’ could prevent over 3,000 deaths from strokes and heart attacks every year. The research was led by Dr Oliver Mytton at Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham.

One suggested approach is to levy a tax against foods measured on what is called the ‘SSCg3d’ score – an ‘unhealthiness score’ to the rest of us. The SSCg3d score takes into account Energy levels, saturated fat, sodium and NME sugar content (the ‘A’ points), then the total Iron, Calcium, n-3, fruit and veg content (the ‘C’ points). An overall rating is than calculated by deducting the ‘C’ points from the ‘A’ points and given a rating between 0 and 10. A rating under 2 is considered ‘healthier’ food, 3 to 8 as intermediate, and 9 or above is considered ‘less healthy’. To give an example, Spinach scores a rating of -12, whereas chocolate digestive biscuits score +29.

An alternative economic model put forward in the study was to apply VAT to foods with a high level of saturated fat, e.g. butter and cheese, cakes and pastries. This model was found to be the least desirable as it could increase purchases of products high in salt, resulting in an increased number of deaths from strokes and heart disease.

A third suggestion was to introduce a tax across a wider range of food products containing high levels of sugar, fat and salt across the board. Many stores already use the ‘traffic light’ labelling system to indicate levels of sugar, fat, saturates, and salt in their foods. Products containing a red indicator should be avoided or taken in moderation, those labelled as amber are relatively neutral and can be eaten most of the time, while green indicates the healthier choice.

This model could prevent around 3,200 deaths per year and would add 4.6 per cent to the average household food bill, amounting to an extra £2 billion a year. A small cost compared to the dangers of obesity currently experienced in Britain.

Of course this is not an entirely new concept. It was pioneered by Kelly Brownell in the early 80’s. His proposal was to use the revenue gained from the junk food taxes to subsidise the cost of healthier foods. Twenty years on and we still find that healthy foods tend to cost more than unhealthy alternatives.

Tony Blair rejected the idea of tax on fatty foods in 2004, as it would make Britain too much of a ‘nanny state’! Perhaps we should all forget the healthy diet and keep popping diet pills such as Acomplia instead?

Jeff Talbot writes on several health issues including erectile dysfunction, weight loss and hair loss. Popular topics include research into the treatments of these conditions such as the use of Viagra, Acomplia, and Propecia.