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Thursday, 12 July 2007

Fat Tax?

Whatever next! A thinktank, and I use the term vey lightly, from Oxford has suggested that VAT (Value Added Tax) of 17.5%.

They claim 7.5% rise on fatty, sugary or salty food would cut heart and stroke deaths by 1.7% and that 3,000 lives could, possibly, be saved.

Consider, if you will, the methods they used to come to the conclusion 3,000 lives would be 'saved'.

First they used economic data to work out how demand would fall as the price of unhealthy foods increased, and which foods people might turn to instead - then used these results to predict the benefit on the health of the population.

Dairy products, that most staple of English foodstuffs, which contained high levels of saturated fats, such as butter and cheese, was attacked.

This however proved ineffective to their ends as they, somehow, worked out that people would simply switch to other 'unhealthy' foodstuffs containing high levels of salt. Quite how they worked this out is astounding because high salt content is utterly different from high fat content. But, I digress.

After they did not get the results they wanted to prove their point they switch to something called the SSCg3d score. This attributes points to to certain nutrients per 100g of food.

By taxing all products which scored poorly on this scale lives could be saved with approximately 2,300 fewer deaths each year from stroke and heart disease.

And here is the good bit.

They tweaked the range of taxed products to include foods that might score poorly but may be used as alternatives if so called 'unhealthy' foods. Not surprisingly, this approach yielded the most apparently striking results, with as many as 3,200 deaths prevented.

Now, call me cynical but anything like this study that has 'tweaked' things to suit their own aims smacks of misleading information. Also, how can they project what people eat when by our very nature we are fickle food eaters? Further, if some foodstuffs were taxed as they suggest you will immediately have a two tier situation as those who can afford it will carry on eating so labled 'unhealthy' foods while those who cannot afford it will not, as this study suggests, lead to 'healthy' food eating but will infact result in people who either will seek alternatives (as in similar products) or get themselves into further debt trying to give their children what the children want.

This study with its skewed methodology and by extention flawed results should be thrown away without a second thought.

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