As a kid I holidayed regularly in Denmark and loved my pastries or 'Stollen'. Though my parents ensured I didn’t over indulge and encouraged me to join the majority of Danes who seem to travel mostly by bike or foot.
Hardly surprising then that despite the sweet treats, the Danes, and Scandinavian generally, don’t suffer the same high levels of obesity and associated health complication of many other Western countries.
So why on earth has their government become the first in the world to introduce a tax on food high in saturated fat?
Why a Food fat Tax?
Butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed food are now subject to the tax if they contain more than 2.3% saturated fat.
Why? The answer is simple.
They may be among the slimmest in Europe but the Danes do not want to end up as fat as the British or Americans!
According to the Panorama investigation, ordinary folk are mostly OK with this tax, and don’t appear to resent the government adding further to their grocery bills. They understand that with rising worldwide obesity rates, this is a wise preventative measure. One Danish couple said.
"We ruin ourselves and somebody has to take action. So if we can't do it, then the government should make health for the people," said Karina.
Charlotte Kira Kimby of the Danish Heart Foundation denies that the new taxes amount to government ‘nannying’.
"We still have the same free choice to buy the things we would like to buy in the shops. What is happening with this kind of tax is that we actually just see the state going in and balancing price because it is cheap to produce food with a high content of sugar, fat and salt."
Perhaps not surprisingly, the ‘processed foodists’ are not so sanguine! They claim that the tax is a bureaucratic nightmare.
Chief executive of leading chocolate company Toms, Jesper says firms like his are already reducing the calorie content of their products in response to customer demand. "It just makes it very complicated to be a confectionery producer in Denmark. We already have some of the highest labour costs in the world," he said.
Others argue that saturated fat may be the wrong target.
They say salt, sugar and refined carbohydrates are more detrimental to health and should be tackled instead.
We totally agree.
As many of you know, we believe that Saturated fat in moderation is essential for optimal health.
Besides which, as Certified Nutrition Specialist Mike Geary points out there is actually little sound empirical proof that moderate saturated fat is harmful in any way. His views are endorsed by Mary Enig a PhD in nutritional biochemistry.
What do you think?
If fatty foods were taxed in your country would it make you change your eating habits? Or would you be furious about the food police telling you what to eat? Especially if the scientific ‘proof’ justifying the ‘tax’ was ‘shonky’!
Do you agree with obesity expert Professor Peter Kopelman of the Royal College of Physicians who argues that the UK could learn a lesson from the lean Danes?
He believes that there is a clear parallel with the taxation of cigarettes. When cigarettes were taxed, there was an immediate decline in the numbers bought.
"We also saw that there was a decline in the diseases that complicate cigarette smoking. I think there are lessons to learn for unhealthy food."
Or are you more sympathetic with the view of The UK Health Secretary Andrew Lansley who says “Nudges are very important. Tax is not a nudge, tax is a shove. If you start down the route of taxation, quite often you get quite a lot of push back against that. The public don't think it's our job to be trying to tell people what to do."
Read his lips. No new taxes.
My view is that the Danes are targeting the wrong thing: the real culprit is refined sugars and processed foods NOT saturated fats.
I also find the view of Karina above interesting: "We ruin ourselves and somebody has to take action. So if we can't do it, then the government should make health for the people."
Do you agree that you have no role in ‘ruining yourself’?
I know for a fact that my health decline into Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis was largely a result of the wrong lifestyle choices I made.
It will be interesting to see how this develops.