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Thursday, 3 February, 2000, 15:56 GMT
Should we pay VAT on fat?
Can VAT ever be good for your health? Would a tax on fatty food help save hundreds of lives, or would it discriminate against poor families who have to buy cheap food to survive?
Would you eat less butter, biscuits and ice cream if it cost more? Or would you just compensate by eating more lower fat foods?
Can a fat tax ever work?
By the time we have banned all but electric cars, installed Gatso cameras on every road in the land, removed the need to leave the house to go shopping or to the movies, there will be little excitement left in life - leave the FAT IN, leave the TAX OUT.
More tax? We already pay up to 40% on income. Add the 17.5% and there you pay the government 57.5p to get 42.5p worth of sausages, olive oil and bacon. Isn't that already too much?
I hope people realise what is the real hidden agenda. The Government did not leak this idea simply to gauge peoples reaction to a tax on fatty food. They leaked it to see people's reaction to a tax on food in general. There are simpler ways to increase tax revenue, even they could not be this stupid.
I hope we don't fall for this pathetic argument. The intention is clearly to move us closer to the EU which already taxes food. This is another sleight of hand to edge us closer to Tony's friends across the Channel.
I think that there should be no tax on fatty
foods because if somebody like's a certain
food and its fast food they should pay more than say
somebody who doesn't.
Is there any proof that the high taxes on petrol stops those with money use their cars any less?
How many people stop smoking because of the increase in the tax?
Does ALL the money raised by road tax go to fund roads and public transport?
Let's face it fatty food tastes great, and if eaten in moderation does us no harm, it may even do you some good!
What is important is that people get the balance of ALL food, which means education, at all levels.
Rather than tax fatty food why not enforce a law to make healthy foods cheaper? Fresh fruit and veg do not last long and constantly needs to be replenished so does it not make better sense to make them cheaper rather than make fatty foods more expensive. It is typical to think of the expensive option for the consumer, the government have enough of our taxes from other sources, how dare this suggestion be put forward? It is an insult to us consumers, food is a basic human need, we need it like we need to breathe so why impose more tax?
VAT on any food has always been a contentious subject. The idea of putting tax on fatty foods would be most difficult to implement. A more practical tax would be to put it on luxury items such as chocolate biscuits, ready made cake, all confectionery, including crisps. If people are faced with the prospect of having choose whether to make their own cakes and confections in the short time available to them or not pay exorbitant prices for them they might go without. What they will binge on instead remains to be seen.
Fatty foods! VAT, hey why not Tony has already passed laws that tax you on your JOB as opposed to your EARNINGS so why shouldn't he tax the food we eat, the air we breathe the water we drink. I have had enough of the current government introducing stealth taxes. NO MORE TAX INCREASES, and more importantly who are Tony and his cronies to tell me what to do with my life.
Instead of making fatty foods more
expensive why doesn't the government
subsidise "healthy" foods instead?
Perhaps by making fruit and vegetables
cheaper individuals would buy more?
I think placing VAT on fat is a nasty
way to generate more revenue without
providing a sensible alternative like
putting up petrol without improving
Not on fat per se, but the promotion of a balanced diet should be the focus, with high fat foods exposed for what they are. Also, the approach of '90%' fat free should be made illegal. Manufacturers and processors use weasel words which confuse consumers.
Actually, VAT should be levied on all food products, increased on other goods and services and income tax abolished. Then everyone could afford a balanced diet. Quality food is expensive in the UK
No because there then would be an opportunity for the government to sneak through vat on all foods as well as it being unfair to those on the poverty line
It is fair enough to tax smokers, because they affect other people's health. What's wrong with fat eaters? If the government is trying to encourage healthy eating, it should try to reduce the price of healthy food. We would like to see that.
How typical for such a suggestion to come from "rip-off" Britain! Not content with supermarkets fleecing suffering consumers with grotesque over-charging on healthy foods, we now have this absurd suggestion. Can I suggest that the price of healthy foods is cut dramatically, instead?
The nanny state strikes again! It's about time the government gave the people of this country credit for some common sense and left these decisions up to us. They'll be telling us what air to breathe next!
I think that the addition of vat to fatty foods may stop some people, but I also think that we would need a national educational programme to raise awareness about the many uses and tasty recipes using veg and fruit. This is because many people living on the poverty line, these fatty foods are cheap, easy to prepare with no waste, fear about the possible waste and lack of knowledge may stop individuals from experimenting with healthy recipes using fresh vegetables.
The only significant growth area in food manufacturing and food retailing over the last decade had been at the value/economy end of the market. With much of the own-label products the specification for ingredients is lower for both own label for other leading retailers and brand manufacturers.
To secure a cheap price needs cheap ingredients.
The meat industry is only too happy to rid itself of fat to the food industry
An interesting idea. It assumes more fatty foods you eat the more likely you are to need the health service resources for high cholesterol, heart and circulation problems in the future. Thus those that are more likely to use these resources by not looking after themselves will line the treasury pockets to pay for it. Good idea in principle.
Why VAT. This will be siphoned straight in to the exchequers coffers and only brought out to bribe middle England to vote Labour. Make it a 'health tax' with all contributions direct to the NHS.
What a good idea! Let's start with the fat politicians - the government should get a lot of revenue from them! That would soon make the tax - law is rescinded!
Have people taken leave of their senses? It is nobody's business what I eat or drink. I want the government out of my life. I don't need anyone saving me, thanks.
I read the full article in the BMJ and I think it argues a reasoned case. If we assume that living as long as possible is the highest goal in life and that the state has the right to force us all to do so whether we like our medically correct prescribed lifestyles or not. As a GP, I obviously think it is right to give people the best available health advice, but there is more to life than being told what to do by health boffins all the time. The proposal to tax fatty foods is a stupid piece of health fascism which should be rejected out of hand.
Stephen Hayes, England
I do not think there should be VAT on fatty foods. It will not solve the dietary problems of the UK. Will all fast food restaurants put up their prices if VAT was introduced as they are the main culprits of fatty food? Education is important and instead of making a Victoria sponge cake in cookery classes children should be taught more about a good balanced diet and how to achieve it on a low income.
Taxing doesn't work, smokers still smoke and drinkers still drink.
I think VAT on fat would be pointless. For a start, nutritionists state the need for a certain ammount of fat in the diet, and the positive effects certain fats have eg. fish oils. People are well aware of the health risks associated with excess consumption, and then the issue is surely that individuals should have freedom of choice. It is not possible to tax to ensure compliance.
Jonathan Drake, UK
Fine, were all fat, but where does it all stop? Perhaps we should pay vat on death. Education from an early age would be far better.Then again if we didn't have to pay so much vat we might be able to afford decent food or is down to manufacturers to produce foods with less or no saturated fats? So stop blaming the general public and stop putting temptation in our way.
If the government are worried about healthy living and want to tax fatty foods then they'll have to combine it with other measures such as preventing supermarkets from overcharging for healthy food, and also by subsidising or providing tax relief for exercise activities.
Another "sin tax?"
There are already heavy taxes on several other things that are said to be bad for us: alcohol, tobacco, and (in Britain) television. A sin tax on fat is bad for several reasons, not the least of which is that it gives the government a vested interest in promoting fat consumption to keep the revenues flowing in.
Surely a concerted public education campaign would deliver more long term tangible outcomes rather than creating a "I'll tax you into change" approach.
Behavioural change requires information to be provided consistently over an extended period of time. Self driven change is proven to be the most effective.
No we shouldn't have to pay VAT on fatty foods. I say this because what right has the government of the day have to dictate what foods I can eat. At the end of the day it is my own life and if I or many other people want to eat fatty foods and risk the chance of health problems in latter life then that is our right. I can understand that some people might disagree with me and state that my ignorance could put extra pressure on health resources in the future but if they are going to use that argument then we might as well all give up food altogether.
If we are serious about health and want to be a nanny state, then let's ban cigarettes - this would assist the health risks of obesity in the country too and make life a lot more pleasant.
This is a tax that will blatantly discriminate against the poor. If the government wanted people to be healthier, it could start by encouraging children to take exercise, reintroduce free school meals for all children and show older children, in high school perhaps, how to cook and eat healthily for less. Many people eat badly because they've never been taught how to cook and eat healthily, and don't know a lot about the variety of foods in the supermarket. In addition, many poor working people eat badly because by the time they come home from their badly paid job, it's easier to go down to the chipper for cod and chips than it is to spend an hour in the kitchen preparing and cooking something healthier.
Grainne Phillips, Northern Ireland
As an ex-pat Brit living in Texas, it astounds me how much food you can get for very low cost. $3 will easily buy you a meal with over 3,000 calories. And for less than $5 you have multitude choices of 'All you Can Eat' buffets. This kind of low cost food availability is responsible for making over 50% of the population overweight. Some kind of government intervention will be needed someday, and it might have to be taxation. Free health clubs would be another option.
I suggest that we levy a swinging tax on the potty academics that keep bombarding us with this sort of nonsense. It sticks in my throat like an overcooked dumpling to think that our taxes have largely paid for Dr Marshall's ludicrous research and barmy conclusion.
Heavy weight, obesity and heart attack are the rampant problems facing a number of people in the world. I think this has been facilitated by taking the type of food which eventually are transformed by the metabolic processes into body energy. Fat is among that variety. In view of this point a mechanism for discouraging consumption of fat should be established, hence VAT is ideal as it will lead to escalating the price eventually peoples disposable income allocated to such a food will be minimised consequently the rate of fat consumption will be reduced.
Sosthenes Mutarubukwa, Tanzania
Why don't they just tax fat people as an incentive to lose weight? High tax on smoking has not stopped smokers from smoking. This is just another sneaky way of introducing a new tax.
What a crazy idea! The 2 main reasons why people eat unhealthy foods are cost and taste. All "healthy" foods are subject to immoral premiums at the local supermarket. Anything labelled "vegetarian" or "natural" is twice the price of the "unhealthy" alternative or comes in single/double packets rather than family sized (6 - 8 portions). What is needed is an effective system of consumer power - instead of taxing unhealthy food why not force supermarkets to charge the same for "healthy" and "unhealthy" alternatives and see what the consumer chooses then?
This is just the sort of thing that out current government likes. They wish to control all our eating habits, and anything that they do not approve of, they just will tax it or ban it. I believe that they have a duty to INFORM the public about health risks from certain foods, e.g. Beef on the Bone, or fatty foods, but they should leave the option of whether to eat the food up to individual people. People are not stupid and can make their own mind up over what they eat.
Oh, Jean-Marc Watson, whoever mentioned that the government was going to introduce such a tax? It was just an 'idea' put up for debate by some lunatic professor on the radio this morning! And no, of course it wouldn't work.
Why not just make fruit/veg and lower fat foods cheaper? Other countries pay far less for their food bills thank UK anyway.
I just bought half a pound of cherries for £2 - I could have had about 6 bars of chocolate for that!
Nobody seems to be too fussed about the huge taxes on tobacco and alcohol. If these taxes are justified by the costs of treating the diseases they help cause then why not do the same for fatty foods? Heart disease is a bigger killer than lung cancer and in many cases is just as preventable. As for the supposed cost - since when have fresh vegetables been expensive? I've found that cooking with fresh vegetables is much cheaper than buying in pizza and microwave meals. Is the real reason that people are just too lazy to make the extra effort?
This proposed 'tax' will only serve to hit harder at the already lower - paid sector of society who, lacking in education, survive on as many calories as they can derive from as little money as possible. There is little to suggest that people's habits can be changed by forcing the cost of daily purchases even higher, especially in the field of nutrition. Families will have to cut down on other things to be able to afford cheese, butter, margarine and eggs, traditional family staple foods. They will therefore be unable to afford to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. This whole idea has the feeling of a 'let them eat cake' mentality!
The government just cannot resist butting into our lives at every opportunity. Not content with dipping into our pockets, they insist on trying to butt into our bedrooms and now our kitchens - all in the name of "protecting" its citizens. What's next, a tax on city air breathing, as it's less healthy than country air?
I agree with Claudia. This must be a joke! 'Fat Tax' would be up there in the list of "Top 10 Worst Ever Ideas". If people want to eat fatty foods fine - if they don't - fine. It's bad enough now with people telling us what we can or cannot eat. You know the way it goes, scientists say fat is bad for you one minute and then good the next!
This isn't really about fatty foods, it's about fatty lifestyles - too much time in front of computers and TV, not enough exercise, taking the car when walking would be better. Perhaps the tax could be extended to cover TV remote controls, comfortable cushions, slippers...
Andrew Dowle, UK
Fatty foods taste better than low-cal food. It is generally quicker to make as well. I drink, smoke and eat fatty foods and I am getting sick of the government making money from me. We don't live in a dictatorship country so let us do what we like. We are not breaking any laws.
On the face of it this sounds like a good idea but we ought to very careful about slapping VAT on foodstuffs. For a start it would be a logistical nightmare to set up. Would the tax be on any food above a certain fat content? In that case would crisps be taxed at the same rate as lard even though lard is 100% fat? And if we artificially raise the cost of some foods is it not fair to say that other foodstuffs will rise in price as well? Let's leave things as they are.
All food (with the possible exception of celery!) is fattening if eaten in sufficient quantity. Where do they intend to draw the line? Should streaky bacon be taxed but not lean back bacon? Eggs are high in cholesterol - will they be taxed although they're not 'fat' food?
There is no reason why the poor should suffer - cakes, ice cream, chocolate are all expensive and it is possible to eat healthily cheaply.
Presumably we can expect a government subsidy on food they consider healthy?
Roll on the Nanny State!
A tax on the fat content of food can only be justified on health terms and if the money collected was used to bring down the price of food deemed to be healthy. That way the poorest families would benefit. Hypothecate or die?
I think children should be much better educated in our schools about nutrition and health issues. Tomorrow's Generation is in danger of obesity (look at North America, for example) and also wasted financial and medical resources. The nations' health is at stake here in more ways than one!
Adrian Paul Miles, Birmingham, UK
Where does it end? The left always seems to want to tax everything they see as not being "perfect". You notice that they don't want to try to eliminate these things, they just want the money. Since this is an opinion column, I'd like to give mine to those who want us to pay for everything: "hell no" and "butt out of my life!"
I think people have a right to eat whatever they want. And what constitutes a 'fatty food'? Fats are just as important for healthy living as protein and carbohydrates. You really think we'd all do a 9 'til 5 workday on low-cal foods? Get real, we'd all keel over at 10 o'clock! If you're going to be dumb enough to try and tax foods then you should make gyms and sports equipment cheaper, but that's not going to happen is it? Why? Because this issue doesn't give a damn about health, just about getting money out of our pockets and into the bank accounts of big corporations. At the end of the day Joe Suit doesn't really care about anyone's health but his own...Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
David W, UK
The argument I heard this morning was that 'It worked for unleaded/leaded petrol' i.e. because leaded petrol cost more, more people turned to unleaded.
(This, of course, had nothing to do with the fact that car manufacturers themselves had started to manufacture unleaded vehicles instead of leaded ones.)
Anyway, I do not think people should tax your food tastes. You should be able to eat what you like. Trying to force people to eat 'healthy' foods is immoral as people do have minds of their own.
Also, just what is the definition of a 'healthy food' and who said so?
The motives are correct but the idea is absolutely ludicrous. Health is largely up to the individual and excuses made that poorer people have more fatty diets than wealthier people is a poor one. What is the difference between a poor person and a richer person knowing the dangers of eating fatty foods and taking more exercise and moderating their diet with foodstuffs that are not necessarily expensive but are nevertheless healthy? The battle here is against ignorance and laziness, and will never be won by such a blatantly foolish idea. Taxing fatty foods is akin to upping the tax on cigarettes- many people, including poor ones, still smoke as many as they did ten years ago. PS If someone is too dense to realise their diet will harm them or will not do anything about it, why should government time be wasted on them?
It's so typical of the current government to introduce yet another levy against the general populous and then masquerade it as something that will actually be of great benefit to us. I mean, it's completely inconceivable that it's simply a ploy to allow them to replenish their coffers.
I think it is an outrageous idea that healthy eaters, like myself, who enjoy the odd indulgence should be made to pay tax to stop others over-indulging! Surely better education is the answer. You can cook a vegetarian risotto and feed a family of five for the same price as egg and chips. Why should I be made to pay more - if people got off their backsides and did more exercise the world would be a far healthier place.
This is a joke, isn't it?
If the government really wants us to eat more healthily, then reduce the costs of healthy foods !!
Those who eat excessive amounts of fatty foods are those who require health care for diseases caused by their diet.
Maybe charging taxes would encourage people to improve their diets - as long as we are told what these 'fatty foods' are.
Regarding discrimination against poor people, it seems that unless they can open a packet and empty the contents into a frying pan, this group will continue to suffer from the worst health problems of all the social classes. Instead of
putting VAT on fatty food, the government should be encouraging
people how to cook, both well and cheaply. For example,
a sack of potatoes costs only about 1 or 2 pounds from the market, enough bulk to make good soup for a month. Yet a packet of oven ready chips costs the same, but only enough for 1 meal.
Yet another example of the nanny state in action. While morally it may be desirable to try to persuade people into a healthy lifestyle by informing them and giving them the facts, so they can choose for themselves (or not as the case may be) it's quite another thing to try to enforce it by taxation. It is exactly the same tactic that is currently being used on motorists to try to get them to give up their cars and to be quite honest it both causes resentment and it is dubious as to how effective it can be anyway. People don't like being forced but this government seems not to be able to see - or care about - that at all.
This is just ridiculous. This is not the way to encourage people to lead a healthier lifestyle. This government seems to believe in penalising people to get them to change their habits "for the better". This is not the way to do things. Education, more support for youth sports, greater access to outdoor activities... these are all positive, constructive ways of improving peoples health, both physical and mental. And if the government are just doing this to sneak in another new tax, then I'll say again what I've said before. Be up front about it. Say we need more money for better services, and put income tax up.
Oh look another attempt by our socialist government to control us.
An interesting idea. Here is a better one:
How about lowering the prices on 'healthy'
foods? I eat a mostly vegetarian diet, and on
one recent trip to the store, a head of
lettuce was running at $1.30. I wouldn't mind
that kind of price, if the thing were larger
than my fist. Oh well, at least it was worth
a good chuckle.
This idea is only an hypothesis to stimulate debate. It has nothing to do with the government, so let's stop being paranoid about possible extensions of the nanny state.
The idea is, however, ludicrous. Smoking related diseases are the biggest self-inflicted health threat in UK and the government does absolutely nothing to curb that. So cheer up fat lovers, you are safe for a long time yet
Why should those who are not fat be penalised just because people cannot keep their weight under control.
To all those commentators from the US. "Read my hips. No more fat taxes!"
What would you do with the monies collected? Pay increases for doctors who take out the wrong kidney or would you buy more beds for your so-called hospitals so they could line people up in the hallway, out the door and down the street when the next flu strain hits your country. Your socialised medicine sucks and unfortunately there are some here in America who want to socialise medicine as well. Thought for the day - Taxes are not the cure all for the nation's ills.
A fat tax will not work, if only because of the responses you have received so far.
Fat is not a political issue, it is a life, death and health issue. Just as smoking is associated with all the leading causes of death so is a high fat diet -- heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Once people learn this, the majority will stop eating excess fat. However, this is not the same as saying that obesity is necessarily caused by eating fat, it can be caused by whatever food a person stores instead of metabolising. Some people get fat eating vegetables. We all still have a lot to learn.
In reply to Claudia Schmid: It's no joke - my lard bill is going to be sky-high if this happens. And I was working so hard towards a place on the Jerry Springer show too.
Hah, hah, hah! This is the most ridiculous story of the year. Is it April 1 yet?
Just take the example of high taxes on cigarettes, and they may soon realise that this method does stop people buying certain items.
If we think back to the government's tax breaks for small engine cars,
we are reminded that what constitutes small for the normal person,
is considered large by the government. Hence the tax breaks were
only relevant to those with sub-micron 1.0l engines.
If the same theory is imposed on fatty foods, then any food with more
than 'trace' amounts of fat will be considered 'harmful'. We can't trust
the beneficiary of the increased income, in this case the government,
to be the one that sets the cut-off point.
It's frightening to learn that the number of obese people in the world is the equivalent of the number of starving people! When I see fat children, at least in the USA, it tells me that these kids are already being robbed of the opportunity to be normal. Teaching children and allowing adults to become fat is criminal. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein sources and lots of exercise. Yes, no tax...just make people walk a mile for their fries.
I agree that possibly, if the not-so-healthy foods were more expensive, then the less fortunate families will have no option but to purchase the better quality food. This does not, however, address the fact of 'how' they will be able to afford to buy these goods.
The government could make billions from such a scheme, out of our pockets. Even if this stopped people eating fatty food, it would only save thousands a year. It would be more effective (though less profitable) to encourage healthy living.
Fat people are just like smokers. They are lazy, undisciplined, and unheatlhy. They are too lazy to seek a healthy way of life, and moan when somebody tries to encourage them to do so. And when that lifestyle brings them the inevitable health problems they are first in the queue at the hospital. Bleating that they want instant treatment, and pushing healthy people who have eaten properly all their lives and whose need for medical attention is not as a result of a bad diet, out of the way. As someone who has all my life eaten healthily and taken regular exercise I view this as most distressing. Any measures that are taken to rid this country of this scourge has my full support.
A healthy diet for adults is not the same as a healthy diet for young children. When children are growing it is important for them to have plenty of energy from food. There is also evidence to suggest that giving young children a very low-fat diet can actually cause them health problems.
Last time I looked Scientists Scienced and Taxers taxed.
Isn't it wonderful living in a Nanny state.
This is a very short-sighted idea indeed. The correlation of fat and cholesterol with heart disease is well established in the general population, but among reputable scientists it is agreed that the correlation between lack of exercise and heart disease is stronger.
If the government really wanted the population to become healthier, it would sponsor gyms and swimming pools. If, on the other hand, it saw a simple way to line its pockets and pretend to be acting for the good of the nation... well, the current proposal looks good.
It is certainly telling that the real experts, such as the British Heart Foundation, oppose this idea. Perhaps we could consider that they know what they're talking about?
The health Nazis are back. The way I understand the argument is that some of the healthy foods are taxed and the tasty fatty foods are not. Simple, remove the tax on the healthy foods. Or is this to free the market for the 'nanny state'?
My 18-month-old daughter eats full fat foods (like yoghurt and milk). But my wife and I have low fat alternatives. All of this is acting on official advice. Now, will someone tell me why we should be taxed a) differently and, b) for taking official advice.
While we are at it, why don't we stick an extra tax on clothing for the larger person. Let's totally humiliate them! And while we are at it, let's just generally ban enjoyment.
It's a bit of a misnomer that fatty foods are unhealthy. If those that ate fatty foods could be bothered to exercise properly then there would be less instances of heart disease and obesity. In short, fat is just another form of energy but one that must not be abused. As for taxing fatty foods, we may as well tax people that walk less than 200 yards a day.
This is just another potty idea to raise money by a government desperate to justify it's existence. Why not just reintroduce window tax and be done with it?
This is very possibly the most incoherent load of nonsense I have ever heard.
People are once again being told how to live their lives by a bunch of extremists. Instead of forcing people to do something that is felt, at the time to be the right thing (which may turn out to be the wrong thing, as we have all recently found out with alcohol), how about treating people with a little respect and educating them. Let them decide for themselves what is good for them or not. It is also pretty disgusting how the government can again twist the story around to make it look good for everyone where in reality they are just after more money out of us. As if they don't get enough already.
This sounds like something that would come out of California! A tax on fatty foods is stupid. Who comes up with this nonsense? Are they so wealthy and removed that they would think this is a good idea?
I can't see how this affects the poor. Cakes, biscuits and ice cream are not cheap, they are expensive. I can't afford them and I make plenty of money. I think you'll find the cheapest meals are vegetables, beans, and a bit of meat. And look, it's all low in fat!
(1) Who decides what is good? Nobody worried about cholesterol until employees of margerine companies started telling us to!
(2) The taxes we already pay are bad enough and we never get value for money. Why don't they go back to a Window Tax in an attempt to prevent energy wastage through heat loss?
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