Mummy Buzz


Junk Food Tax Must be High

Experts Chew the Fat

Wait. Before you stuff that hot dog in your hole, would you be willing to pay extra for the privilege? You might have to.

Experts on The British Medical Journal's website claim that proposed taxes on junk food would have to be significant -- as in, 20 per cent higher -- to have any effect on the current obesity and heart disease epidemic. 

The question is, if unhealthy food and drinks became more expensive, would we quit consuming them? In an ideal world, the tax would go in tandem with a subsidy for healthy items such as fruit and vegetables.

But we don't live in an ideal world, and you only need whiz around the aisles of your local supermarket to see that it is infinitely cheaper to dine on junk than it is to buy fresh, let alone local or organic.

More and more countries are introducing junk taxes. So far the effect is most felt, according to Oliver Mytton and colleagues at the University of Oxford, when it comes to taxing sugary drinks. A 35 per cent tax on sweetened drinks in a canteen led to a 26 per cent decline in sales, according to a recent U.S. study. If this is the future, then the health rewards reaped surely outweigh the dent in the pocket?

On the flip side, all those junk food manufacturers create jobs, jobs which would be axed following such a sharp drop in sales. And whether the funds raised from the proposed junk taxes be put in the right place --- i.e. "treat related diseases, subsidize healthy foods, or to stimulate industry reformulation of food (such as removal of salt, sugar, or saturated fats from foods)" -- remains to be seen.

Would a tax put you off buying junk food, or would you give in to the craving regardless? Would the rich get fatter, and the poor get healthier?