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Posts Tagged ‘food’

Taxing fatty products

The problem of obesity and healthy eating is a growing problem in many countries and governments have long been looking into designing policy to tackle this issue.

Some have gone for healthy eating campaigns and policies to encourage pregnant women to eat better, but one government took it a step further and introduced a Fat Tax. In October 2011, the Danish government introduced a tax on foods that are high in saturated fat in a bid to reduce consumption of these goods. However, this policy is now to be abolished.

The Fat Tax introduced by the government imposed a surcharge on foods that contained more than 2.3% saturated fat. Numerous products were affected, including meats, dairy and as expected – processed foods. The policy was criticised by scientists who said that saturated fat was the wrong target and perhaps they were proved right, but the government’s u-turn, which will now see the tax being abolished. The tax had gradually increased food prices throughout the country and authorities said that it had even put Danish jobs at risk.

With food prices much higher in Denmark with the tax, consumers switched from buying domestically produced goods to crossing the border into Germany and purchasing their cheaper food. This undoubtedly had an adverse effect on the Danish economy, as it represented a cut in consumer expenditure. Perhaps it also helps to explain Germany’s strong economy – it was feeding 2 nations! The Danish tax ministry said:

‘The fat tax and the extension of the chocolate tax — the so-called sugar tax — has been criticised for increasing prices for consumers, increasing companies’ administrative costs and putting Danish jobs at risk … At the same time it is believed that the fat tax has, to a lesser extent, contributed to Danes travelling across the border to make purchases … Against this background, the government and the (far-left) Red Green Party have agreed to abolish the fat tax and cancel the planned sugar tax’

Once the tax is abolished, other policies will need implementing to tackle the problem of obesity and encourage healthy eating, as it continues to be a big problem in this and many other countries. The following articles consider this problem.

Denmark to scrap world’s first fat tax Associated Press (10/11/12)
Denmark to abolish tax on high-fat foods BBC News (10/11/12)
Fat tax repealed The Copenhagen Post (10/11/12)
Businesses call fat tax a failure on all fronts The Copenhagen Post, Ray Weaver (10/11/12)

Questions

  1. Illustrate the effect of a tax being imposed on a diagram. What happens to equilibrium price and quantity?
  2. According to Danish authorities, consumers didn’t change their consumption habits with the tax. What does this suggest about the PED of these products?
  3. How does the amount of tax revenue generated vary with the price elasticity of demand and supply?
  4. What other policies could be implemented to encourage healthy eating?
  5. Why did this fat tax lead to higher food prices?
  6. Explain the way in which such a tax could adversely affect the Danish economy. Does this justify its removal?
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