A 15% tax would net $1.5 billion – 30 times the amount spent on all forms of health promotion
Mike Daube, professor of health policy at Curtin University, Perth, was reported recently in The Age saying a 15% ‘fat tax’ could be spent on health care. The junk-food market is estimated to be worth well over $10 billion a year and possibly as much as $20 billion so it is time for health authorities to get serious about obesity and hit the junk-food industry where it hurts!
Apparently people complain that healthy food is too expensive, so a junk-food tax that makes foods such as fruit and vegetables more attractive, makes sense.
Curtin’s professor of research in cancer control, Peter Howat, supported the move, saying something needed to be done to curb rising obesity rates. Unless there is a complete package, including education and strong legislation, Australia would be in a worse situation in 10 years, he says.
“If rhetoric alone was the answer, the obesity problem would have been solved many times over. This is the acid test. Are we serious about doing something or do we just keep tinkering at the fringes?” he asks.
Professor Daube said the success of tobacco control showed that hard policies achieved results.
“A tax on junk food will make people think twice,” he says. It would also give the Government “desperately needed money” to spend on health promotion and health services.
The tax could be based on products’ levels of fat, trans fat, sugar and salt and would encourage manufacturers to reduce these.
A 15 per cent tax would push the price of a McDonald’s Big Mac meal from $5.45 to $6.27, while a KFC lunch box would jump from $8.45 to $9.70.
A spokesman for McDonald’s said the company had made significant changes to many items, including the use of trans-fat-free cooking oil and low-sugar buns. By the end of the month it would be offering a low-fat, low-sodium Happy Meal that would have as much fat as half a cheese and Vegemite sandwich.
The spokesman said a “fat tax” would affect the food industry across the board, including businesses such as fish and chips shops. He hoped instead that measures introduced by McDonald’s would encourage other businesses to follow suit.
What a change to the fast food market this would be! Fresh fruit just might become the ‘bread and butter line’ at the local ‘greasy Joe’s’!