'Fat' tax on food could prevent 3,000 heart attack and stroke deaths every year

Jul 12, 2007

Taxing certain foodstuffs in the UK could prevent up to 3200 deaths from heart attacks and stroke every year, suggests a study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Value Added Tax (VAT), charged at 17.5%, is already applied to confectionery, ice cream, savoury snacks, and most drinks.

The authors assessed economic data on food consumption in the UK and applied a mathematical formula to calculate the likely impact of price rises on demand of a range of complementary foodstuffs.

They used three different approaches.

They first applied the tax to dairy products containing high levels of saturated fats, such as whole butter and cheese, baked goods, puddings.

In the second approach, they applied the tax to foods attracting an SSCg3d score of more than 9. This is a validated measure of the “healthiness” of a food. For example, spinach scores -12, while chocolate digestive biscuits score +29.

In the third approach they widened the range of foodstuffs taxed to cut fat, salt, and sugar intake for maximum health.

The calculations showed that applying VAT to foodstuffs high in saturated fats would increase salt intake instead, and could actually increase deaths from heart disease and stroke. It would also increase weekly household food expenditure by 3.2%.

Taxing foods attracting a high SSCg3d score would prevent around 2300 deaths a year and add 4% to weekly food bills

Widening the range of foodstuffs for maximum health would boost weekly household food expenditure by 4.6% or £0.67 a person a week.

But it would prevent up to 3200 deaths from heart disease and stroke every year, equivalent to a drop of 1.7% across the nation.

The authors conclude that food taxes would change dietary habits and cut deaths from cardiovascular disease, but would need to be carefully targeted to prevent unhealthy compensatory behaviour in food choices.

Source: BMJ Specialty Journals

Explore further: Outcomes of lung transplantations since implementation of need-based allocation system

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Micro-5: Gut reactions in space

Feb 24, 2015

Our guts literally teem with beneficial bacteria. But not all bacteria are harmless. Disease-causing bacteria, known as pathogens, can infect our intestines, causing illness or even death. Bacterial pathogens ...

Caring for animals at risk in bushfires

Feb 02, 2015

While many people have considered how to care for homes and people during bushfires, they haven't always decided on a plan of action to protect threatened domestic animals, livestock and wildlife, says the ...

Who's been affected by Australia's extreme heat? Everyone

Jan 30, 2015

Australia has been hit by two years of heat: 2013 was the hottest ever recorded and 2014 wasn't far behind, taking third place. The country has also sweltered through several significant heatwaves, and, though ...

Recommended for you

Uganda on defensive over medical 'brain drain' uproar

Mar 03, 2015

Uganda's government on Tuesday hit back at mounting criticism of plans to 'export' over 200 health workers to the Caribbean, insisting it was only seeking to regulate an existing labour market and prevent abuses.

Seth Mnookin on vaccination and public health

Mar 02, 2015

Seth Mnookin, an assistant professor of science writing and associate director of MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing, is the author of "The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy" ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.