Pizzas in Kerala get a 14.5% ‘fat tax’ topping

State Budget takes aim at ‘junk food’ sold in branded outlets to promote healthy eating.

July 08, 2016 11:35 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:02 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:

Kerala announced a 14.5 per cent “fat tax” on pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and tacos sold through branded outlets on Friday, in sync with the World Health Organization’s advocacy of using fiscal tools to promote healthy eating.

Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac might have upset some youth with his move, but doctors and several parents are delighted.

Drop in intake likely

“The ‘fat tax’ may not stop children from eating junk food altogether. But there will definitely be a drop in consumption because many parents will put their foot down when it comes to spending more,” said Amar Fettle, a senior paediatrician.

Like a cigarette tax and an alcohol tax, a fat tax would dissuade children from eating a lot of energy dense foods.

Worldwide, obesity rates have prompted governments to consider imposing a tax to slow sales of food laden with saturated fat and sugars.

A blow against obesity

Kerala’s ‘fat tax’ on pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and tacos announced has been hailed as an important public health measure.

“The fat tax is one of the most important public health moves this government has made. Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac should be congratulated. We are the second most obese State. Over 10 per cent of our adolescent girls are already experiencing various effects of obesity like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome,” said S. Sivasankaran, Professor of Cardiology, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology.

Kerala has also levied a 5 per cent tax on packaged wheat products like atta, maida, suji, rava and packaged basmati rice. Coconut oil, a Kerala staple, was chosen for an additional five per cent tax to help raise coconut procurement price.

Denmark introduced a surcharge a few years ago on foods that contain over 2.3 per cent saturated fat, drawing criticism about excessive bureaucracy. It was abolished in 15 months.

Although the outcome is still being debated, the British Medical Journal said a year ago that consumption of ‘junk food’ fell in Denmark by 10 to 15 per cent and the Danish Government could have reaped the dividends, had it stuck to its decision.

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