AFGC warns ‘fat tax’ will not solve obesity problem in Australia

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 4th October 2011

Introducing a tax on saturated fat in foods is “regressive” and is not the way to reduce obesity levels in Australia, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) warned today.

Yesterday, Australian Food News reported on Denmark being the first country in the world to introduce a tax on processed food products high in saturated fats.

In a statement released today, the AFGC said food taxes in Australia are “regressive” as they penalise people who are least able to afford it. AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said, “Taxing dairy products does not make sense as people should be encouraged to eat more calcium in their diets rather than less.”

Ms Carnell said that Australian food companies are already cooperating with the Australian Government, through the Food and Health Dialogue, to set saturated fat reduction targets for food products areas including processed meats. She said, “By the end of 2013, some of Australia’s leading manufacturers have agreed to reduce by 10 per cent the saturated fat content of cooked/smoked sausages and luncheon meats (excluding salamis) that exceed 6.5 grams of saturated fat per 100g.”

Ms Carnell added, “There is already a 10 per cent tax on processed foods – the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which came into effect in 2000. Australia has had a GST on processed foods – not on fresh foods or staples – for the past decade yet obesity levels have continued to rise.

“Australia will only reverse the obesity trend with a comprehensive preventative health approach involving governments, industry, the community and individuals taking more responsibility for their personal health and of their families,” Ms Carnell said.

Leading psychologist argues for tax on soft drinks

Meanwhile, leading US psychologist Professor Kelly Brownell told the 46th Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference, held in Canberra today, that taxing soft drinks would help the Australian Government combat obesity levels.

Professor Brownell, from the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, in the USA, told the conference, “Food companies know that people have trouble eating reasonable amounts of foods engineered to taste so good, so they load foods with things that boost profits but can contribute to ill health such as sugar, fat, and salt.

“We have seen how effective tobacco taxes have been in reducing rates of smoking so there is no reason to believe such taxes wouldn’t be as effective in reducing the consumption of high sugar and fat foods. A soft-drink tax is a good place to start,” Professor Brownell said. “We need to help people to change their eating behaviour by creating a more positive food environment.”