Fat tax sets healthy standard

Denmark recently placed a tax on foods with at least 2.3 per cent saturated fat. It’s a policy that Canada should consider implementing.

The cost of the tax amounts to $3 per kilogram of saturated fat, reported the Globe and Mail on Oct. 2.

Canada has few measures in place to ensure healthy eating. A 2010 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development report stated that Canada’s obesity rate is 25 per cent, two out of three adult men are overweight and the report predicts the number will continue to rise.

There are limited resources in Canada’s public health-care system. Obesity has links to conditions including diabetes, strokes and certain types of cancer — all of which require expensive treatments.

The province of Ontario spent nearly $45 billion on healthcare in the 2010-11 year out of a total expenditure of $122.9 billion. It’s an extremely high figure and steps need to be taken to reduce it.

Preventative measures are a logical step to foster good health while cutting health-care costs. In the same way that alcohol and cigarettes are subject to excise taxes, so should the purchase of unhealthy foods.

A tax places the onus on the individual to make healthy choices, promoting a sense of urgency.

Unhealthy foods are generally perceived as less expensive and consequently accessible to all, regardless of socio-economic status.

While eating healthily doesn’t need to be expensive, it remains to be seen whether or not those most vulnerable will be hurt by this tax. It’s one possible downside that needs to be combated with education.

Many people are largely ignorant in issues of healthy eating, and a critical eye regarding food and nutrition needs to be engrained into the general public. Denmark plans to reinvest the tax’s revenue into fighting a climbing obesity rate, although plans aren’t fully formed. Measures should include advertisement, a public education campaign and possibly even a subsidy for the cost of natural, healthy foods.

A fat tax is a soft measure that won’t be the solution to rising rates of obesity. The tax doesn’t restrict purchases, but tries to encourage healthier alternatives by making them more financially desirable. Obesity is a complex and multi-faceted issue that requires a dynamic approach and implementing a tax on fatty foods is a worthwhile step in combating the problem.

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