Another Australian health group has joined the chorus of organisations demanding better initiatives to encourage healthy eating.
Public Health Australia believes a “fat tax,” similar to the one introduced in Denmark last year, would enable the food industry to reverse the current discrepancies in price between junk foods and healthier alternatives.
It believes the tax on foods with a high level of saturated fat would raise money which could be used to subsidise healthier foods.
One of the problems with the current pricing of foods is that junk food manufacturers are able to mass-produce unhealthy foods for an extremely low price – burgers at McDonald’s for example, cost as little as $2 – while sourcing quality ingredients and producing healthy foods costs the manufacturer more and therefore retails at a much higher price.
This is part of the reason the peak industry body rejected the original calls for the fat tax last year.
“There is already a 10 per cent tax on processed foods – the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which came into effect in 2000,” Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) chief executive Kate Carnell said.
“Australia has had a GST on processed foods – not on fresh foods or staples – for the past decade yet obesity levels have continued to rise.
“Food taxes are regressive as they penalise people who can least afford it – fat taxes were also dismissed by last year’s Henry Tax Review.
But Public Health Australia’s chief executive Michael Moore says a tax on sugar would be no different to the tax on tobacco.
"In the end, whilst the industry is making big profits out of junk food, it’s actually the taxpayer that’s paying for the results," he said.
"And you only have to look at the health costs, and the skyrocketing health costs, relating to obesity and other dietary related diseases to realise it’s just a transfer of money from the taxpayer to big industry."
The health impacts associated with obesity have earned it the title of ‘the new smoking’ amongst many experts, and as society becomes more informed about the detriments of being overweight, behaviours are beginning to change.
The tax has been introduced in parts of the UK already, and Greggs bakery will take the Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to impose the Value Added Tax (VAT) on its hot products to court in the next six weeks.
The bakery chain, which has 1500 stores across the UK, has lost £30 million value in its shared after being reclassified as hot food, but it argues that because it makes no effort to keep the foods warm, they should be exempted from the tax.
Australian doctors are also calling for warning labels on energy drinks, while a US study found a tax on sugary drinks could save 26 000 lives per year.
Health ministers and industry rejected the compulsory traffic light labelling on the front of packaged foods, suggested by Choice, last year, but have pledged to introduce some other form of simple, front-of pack nutritional guides within the next year.