French Health Minister dismisses “junk food tax” idea

Posted by James Ferre on 3rd October 2008

French Health Minister, Roselyne Bachelot, has rejected calls for a higher tax on foods considered to be unhealthy.

A French parliamentary report released on Tuesday outlined 70 proposals for tackling obesity, including a controversial “junk food tax” that would increase the tax applied to certain food products. It would result in high fat, high sugar and high salt foods commanding a VAT (Value Added Tax) of almost 20 per cent – well above the current 5.5 per cent level.

Ms Bachelot cited concerns of the impact of such a tax on lower socio-economic groups and suggested, on French television station Canal-Plus, that any health plan “should not go in that direction”.

The other issue would be the implementation of such a scheme, as there can be a grey area with some foods as to their true nutritional benefit. For example, high fat doesn’t necessarily mean the food is unhealthy, as there are a number of healthy fats considered important in the human diet. Additionally, would a food with medium fat, sugar and salt levels avoid the tax while a product high in fat but low in sugar and salt be subject to the higher tax?

The suggestion of lowering the VAT, from 5.5 per cent to just over two per cent, for fruit and vegetables was also mooted, with Ms Bachelot not ruling out the idea being considered at some stage in the future.