Economists Say Pass Fat Tax on Ingredients, Not Foods

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • There is ongoing discussion about what policies will help to make a dent on the current obesity trend. San Francisco has moved to force McDonalds to stop selling gifts and toys with the Happy Meals. McDonalds' response was to indeed, remove the toys, but to sell them for a dime. So if a fat tax or as some call it a "sin tax" does pass, meaning foods classified as heavily sweetened or fat laden treats now cost more, will it help to impact obesity? Economists have weighed in and they suggest the idea itself is not bad but maybe it needs to be implemented differently.


    Economists John Beghin and Helen Jensen, who are also professors in the Department of Economics at Iowa State University have suggested that more research is needed to see how and where to specifically utilize a sweet tax. After reading some articles on their position, they seem to postulate that the food processors should pay a tax when they use more than "x" amount of fat or sweeteners in products. They suggest that without research showing a positive impact directly from taxing certain products, why not see if we can achieve a goal of less calories or fat or processed sugar in foods, by directly hitting the people making the foods. That way you modify the product to benefit the consumer's health, but you don't pass on the cost directly to consumers, who frankly feel beleaguered and confused at this point. These economists are not even suggesting this approach as an absolute, but rather suggest trying it out and then scientifically measuring its impact to see if it's a solid approach to modifying consumers' buying habits of the tempting array of treats currently on the market. Consumers might still find the products a bit more costly, since the manufacturers might hand off some of the costs, but consumers would not bear the full cost and would reap benefits from recipe modifications.

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    The economists also point out that obesity has many causes, and that eating too many calories or too much fat or sugar is just one of many contributing agents. Jensen and Beghin did spend quite a bit of time looking at how much sugar and corn syrup goes into food processing. A tax on just those two ingredients could effect change in the amount used in recipes and manufacturing. So maybe the sweet tax is a good idea but how it's implemented should continue to be examined by government and health officials.


    What do you think? No tax at all? A tax on all treats and highly processed foods? A tax on ingredients as these researchers suggest??

Published On: December 07, 2011