Hungary’s First Fat Tax Starts Sept. 1 2011
Beginning on September first, foods that have fat, sugar levels or salt content over a certain level will bear a new tax for Hungarians. The tax will add Euro 0.37 to the cost of foods that are considered responsible for higher rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and other conditions. The tax applies to packaged foods, including ice cream, energy bars, candies, chips, energy drinks and others.
Hungary’s obesity rate is about 20% and has been growing with most other European and American countries. Hungary officials have estimated that nearly 50% of Hungarians are either overweight or obese. The highest levels are found in the U.S., where about a third of the population is obese and over half is overweight.
Hungarian officials have estimated that the new tax will raise upwards of 70 million euros a year for the country – helping to defray their increased health care costs caused by diets with increased levels of these foods. Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban stated that “those who live unhealthily have to contribute more to support the health system.”
This tax follows similar new laws among other European countries. Finland, for example, taxes sodas and candy, and is considering a saturated fat tax. Norway taxes candy and Denmark will introduce a saturated fat tax later in the year.
Does the fat tax help reduce obesity? We’ll see.
Some critics suggest that the tax will simply produce alternative buying from other non-fat tax countries. Others have said the tax needs to be implemented across other food groups.
World Health Organization officials have stated that the fat tax does not go far enough. They state that taxing such a narrow range of foods is unlikely to impact obesity, while they agree with the strategy.
Romania drafted legislation in 2010 for a tax on fast foods, but this did not pass, fearing the loss of thousands of jobs.