Friday, February 26, 2010


Extra taxation on foods considered unhealthy is an option being considered in many countries to prevent unbridled growth of the obesity epidemic due to consumption of such foods. Though in principle it may be a sound proposition, there can be many practical issues that need to be sorted out before putting such a policy in place. Here is the experience in Romania where taxes are going to be levied on fast foods which are supposed to be extra rich in calories and fat.

"Plans by the Romanian government to wage war on obesity and bolster the country's flagging treasury by introducing Europe's first fast-food tax have met resistance, including claims it will lead to mass redundancies. Romanian trade unions and the food industry have warned that the new levy on fatty, salty and sugary foods, scheduled to come into force on 1 March and already dubbed the "fat tax", could have dire consequences".

The reservation expressed by the food processing sector needs to be given careful consideration as any new policy must balance the interests of all the stake holders including growers, processors, environmentalists, consumers and the government. The very definition of fast food or obesity causing food is bound to generate controversies and there is unlikely to be any unanimity on this score. But start we must some where to tackle this vexatious issue and probably taxing a few foods with very high calories or fat per serving may be a starting point. If food industry is afraid of a slump in business and consequent potential for unemployment, alternate avenues must be explored to address them. Human life is too valuable to be wasted on political, economic or social considerations.

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