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Chew the fat on a sugar tax to trim waistlines
July 20, 2012 21 reading now Comments 350
Opinion Jessica Irvine
Economics Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald
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You are what you eat, they say. If so, Australians are shaped rather like a takeaway container filled with booze and meat, with nary a vegetable in sight. Two reports released this week highlight the dire state of the nation's nutrition. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's report, Australia's Food and Nutrition 2012, found 91 per cent of adults do not eat enough vegetables and only half eat enough fruit. One in five drinks alcohol at risky levels. Households spent an average of $237 a week on food and beverages in 2009-10. By far the biggest component of spending was on food prepared outside the home, at restaurants and takeaways, where the average outlay was $63 a week. In second place was spending on alcoholic drinks, $32 a week, followed by meat, fish and seafood, $30 a week. Australians spent just a few dollars more a week on fruit, nuts and vegetables than they did on condiments, confectionery, food additives and prepared meals. So how's that working out for us? Not so well, it seems. In another section of its report, sensitively titled ''We're getting fatter'', the institute finds 36 per cent of adults are overweight and a further 25 per cent obese. And we're starting young. Of children two to 16 years old, 17 per cent are overweight and a further 6 per cent obese. That's nearly one in four children with a weight problem.
Illustration: Simon Letch
Our increasingly sedentary lives are part of the problem, but this is swamped by the increased consumption of calorie-dense but nutrient-poor foods. Why do we eat so much crap? A green paper released this week by the federal government on its National Food Plan hints at one reason. Obviously we eat lollies, burgers and chips because they taste great. But we also eat them because they are readily available and, wait for it, cheap. ''Analysis of Australian food expenditure data suggests a substantial proportion of the Australian population is severely restricted in its capacity to make healthy food choices and achieve a healthy lifestyle. Compounding the situation is evidence that the cost of healthy (low energy-density, high nutrient-density) foods are increasing disproportionately when compared with the cost of higher energy-density, relatively nutrient-poor foods.'' The problem is exacerbated in regional and rural areas, where not only is the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables restricted, but transport costs and fewer supermarkets mean prices are often higher. Fast food chains tend to have uniform national pricing, making it relatively cheaper for people in regional areas to eat at their restaurants. Given the cost imposed on the public purse of treating obesity-related conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, not to mention the cost to individuals of poor health, self-image and shorter lives, it's time to get serious about our bellies. One obvious solution from economics would be to increase the cost of fatty, sugary or excessively calorie-dense foods. In Britain, the opposition Labour Party is considering a policy of taxing sugary drinks. Last year, Denmark became the first country to impose a ''fat tax'' of about $3 per kilo of saturated fat, levied on producers and sellers and passed on to some degree to customers through higher prices. Could the hip-pocket nerve be the solution to our expanding waistlines? Other products harmful to our health, such as cigarettes and alcohol, already attract so-called ''sin'' taxes. And gluttony, it seems, is the developed world's new sin of choice. Sin taxes work by raising prices and discouraging consumption. Additionally, it can be argued the relatively low cost of junk food doesn't incorporate the cost to the community of poor health and treatment - ''a negative externality'' in the lingo. Obviously, such a tax would be regressive disproportionately affecting those on lower incomes - as, of course, do taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. Governments could use the revenue from a fat tax to compensate the low income earners, who would still find fatty foods relatively more expensive. Sound familiar? It's the same logic as the carbon tax. Even if you compensate people for the full effect of higher prices, by raising the relative price of a good, consumers will want to consume relatively less of it. That people respond to prices and incentives is one of the most basic concepts of
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2012.. destroying the family unit. 2012. If they don't make you fat with the sugar. I'm convinced a big part of the solution to the nation's obesity crisis lies with education. now buying up to 6cans of energy drinks for a days consumption. skip or jog around the oval until they've burnt 250 calories? That's one Mars bar. providing perpetual misinformation to the masses to protect malign industry practise and then provide nanny state solutions with further controls and taxation is an attack on the liberty of the individual. they simply want to push yet another tax onto the tax payer to strip wealth from it's citizens and give it to their criminal friends who fund their election campaigns. And what would be the size of the tax necessary to stop you buying that Mars bar if you were really. It drove the children from filling P&C coffers to the local store. Why not give children a heart rate monitor and let them hop. Should it be applied per gram of sugar? The body needs some sugar to function and. sugar occurs naturally in fruit.. But it's a discussion we need to have. 2012. School programs designed to educate children about the calorie content of foods and their bodies' daily calorie needs should be part of every curriculum.com.$32/hr+ 350 comments so far “ »« »« »It's a bit too much nanny state for my liking to consider taxing all unhealthy foods. though saturated fats are generally to be avoided. they'll give you diabetes. Taxation and perpetual misinformation. they can give up the freedom that goes with it. 7:00AM »It's incredible that the state promotes unhealthy eating in it's lax laws concerning fast food giants. NSW 2000 Judd Farris View Job HC Driver and Transpor. With freedom comes responsibility. However. applying a fat tax in practice is problematic.. advertising and availability of high fat.. but I think taxing one or two major culprits might not be such a bad idea..« »Stop the damn taxation already and perhaps the taxpayer might be able to afford more nutritious food in the first instance?« »Just a thought. 2012. $30 . Physical education classes should have a greater focus on exercise that can be incorporated into adult daily lives. And what about fat? Some fats are essential for a healthy diet. Can we prove that the benefits through improved health would outweigh those costs? The jury is out on fat taxes. high sugar products on the market aimed at individuals without sufficient information and then claims the 'solution' to the problem is simply a further tax. kids! It's not healthy for children to obsess about calories. can we begin to bring the two closer into line. with some success. so why not start looking at the behaviour itself. Having battled the bulge myself. but nor is it healthy to be uninformed about the consequences of different food and lifestyle choices... And we need to start young.smh. Competitive group sports are great for athletically gifted or co-ordinated kids. These idealist policies have turned kids into addicts of caffeine and sugar at extreme levels. if people are giving up the responsibility. really craving it? All taxes impose some cost on society in terms of administration.. of course.« »The government should not have the responsibility or mandate to meddle in the affairs of the individual and their choice... 8:32AM “ »« »« »I think by imposing a tax on fatty foods would be a great initiative and will give a bounce in opinion polls for PM Gillard and ALP to election winning majority.« »« Educated Citizen Sydney July 20. This has already happened when they removed soft drink from schools. Only by arming ourselves with knowledge of our body's energy needs and the energy content of what we put in our gobs. They are shockingly unhealthy. Clearly.« »Taxation is killing this country.They should start mobilizing the union movement and greens for a start who already support the scheme. I think the sugar filled sodas are a prime candidate.au/opinion/chew-the-fat-on-a-sugar-tax-to-trim-w. Follow the National Times on Twitter Current jobs Microstation Architect..« John Canberra July 20. but they sure sucked for the rest of us. 8:29AM “ »« “ »« »« »We have a nanny state in dealing with the consequences of this behaviour.« Joker parra July 20.« »This ideal of dumbing down the citizens. There's no point in criticising the government for trying to control people's eating when its responsible for the economic and health costs of obesity.« 2 of 3 22/07/2012 8:10 AM .$40/hr Sydney CBD.Chew the fat on a sugar tax to trim waistlines http://www.« »The government gives less than a DAMN about seriously tackling this issue anyway. 9:08AM “ »« »Get ready for the revolution. Come on Australia lets cut down deadly diseases associated with fatty foods.« James from Brisbane July 20. Nutritionist will rule the world with their outrageous ideals. economics.. $25 . just being told to eat your greens is not enough.
a tax is legislative Login to Comment New user? Sign up change.au/opinion/chew-the-fat-on-a-sugar-tax-to-trim-w.. This was not achieved through some idealistic policy or dreamt up tax it was done through well constructed legislative enforcement. change and public education of this change. Yes I know.smh. This is not nanny stating!! You only need to look at smoking in the last 7years Australia wide how peoples attitudes towards smoking have changed. the organisation charged with protecting us and or NZ cousins through good food regulation.. More comments »A fat tax is the wrong way to go.com. The only innovation that has occurred is the way products are marketed and the hiding of the Email article Print Reprints & permissions 3 of 3 22/07/2012 8:10 AM . FSANZ primary role is the protection of public health however over the years this has been watered down to allow for industry development and innovation (thanks to the Howard Government for this one).Chew the fat on a sugar tax to trim waistlines http://www. The most effective way to instigate change is through legislative enforcement. I am pointing the finger at Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ).
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