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Monday, May 21, 2012

A Fat Tax is just another stick to beat the poor with.

Researchers at Oxford University have proposed a 20% fat tax on sugary drinks to tackle obesity and David Cameron is reported to be considering implementing a Fat Tax as a result. Although the researchers claim this could save up to 3,500 lives per year, there is lots that is wrong with this type of tax.

(source: YG)


Calorie wise, the foods sold at upmarket boulangeries, patisserie, charcuteries and cafĂ© are just as bad for you as liquid sugar drinks or 'pop'. If anything, depending upon your diet, it is arguable that fizzy drinks are less bad for you that foie gras, crepes or profiteroles. After all, if you lead an active lifestyle then a sugar drink can be quicker to convert to the energy that you need to complete your activity, whereas the saturated fats, or fatty proteins in some popular nouveau cuisine dishes could be much harder to shift. Sugar does not line the arteries in the way that saturated fats will. There's no doubt fizzy drinks can rot teeth or induce diabetes, and if taken, as they often are, by the inactive they can repidly expand the waistline. But despite their readily identifiable faults, they are morally no less of a lax decision than it would be to soak your roast potatoes in goose fat. Sadly, the latter will never be part of any fat tax initiative. 


Besides, if one examined the fizzy drinks range of products they'd be surprised to find that often the more sugary drinks are actually supposed pure apple and orange drinks that parents are likely to select for purchase in an effort to be 'healthy'. Thus, one of the main problems with a fat tax is that it is likely to be lazily applied. Strictly speaking, there is no fat in any sugar drink, yet the narrow food diet of the poor is much more likely to come under the remit of a fat tax, than the equally, if not more, fatty penchants of the wealthy. This inequality will exacerbate inequalities not tame them. And if lives are saved through the reduction of diabetes among the poor, what's to say the adverse affects off a reduced family purse will not be felt elsewhere in the family budget? Must a family go without heat an extra hour a day because of their reduced spending power as a result of fat tax? 

Surely a much better solution is to devise ways to get good foods to cost less. We discard one billion pounds worth of fish back into our seas per year. These omega rich foods are ideal fat busters yet EU law says we cannot catch them in the quantities required. Is it any wonder that the fabled English dish is now out of the affordability range of the poor? Another solution that we do not explore enough is regulating the salt that fast food companies place in their food. Sandwiches laced with more than 50% of the recommended daily allowance of salts is nothing short of a crime. Equally, should we not find a way to promote the use of Extra Virgin Olive Oils among the poor? Make it cheaper, on prescription if need be, for the fat busting qualities of that liquid gold could be much more beneficial that beating the poor with a stick for drinking liquid sugar.

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