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Danish fat tax not changing consumers'eating habits, says poll

11-24-2011 14:41 BJT

COPENHAGEN, Nov.23 (Xinhua) -- Denmark's new tax on fatty foods is having little impact on consumer habits, an opinion poll showed Wednesday.

Only seven percent of those polled said they had changed their shopping habits since the tax was imposed Oct.1, said FDB Analyse, which conducted the poll for Danish news agency Ritzau.

The world's first fat tax affects products containing more than 2.3 percent saturated fat, meaning a kilo of saturated fat costs 16 Danish kroner (2.87 U.S. dollars).

As a result, butter, cream, cheese, meat, cooking oil and processed foods like pizza and biscuits are among thousands of products that have become dearer in recent weeks.

However, two out of three respondents to the poll said price rises are too low to make them alter their dietary habits, an opinion shared by some in the food retail sector.

"Price rises per product vary from a few oere to 2 kroner (0.36 U.S. dollar)," said Mogens Werge, Director of Consumer Policy at Coop, a supermarket chain which accounts for 40 percent trade in basic daily goods in Denmark.

"No Danes will change their dietary habits just because the cost of a packet of cookies rises by 35 oere," he told DR News, Denmark's public broadcaster.

The Danish Agriculture and Food Council, an industry association, says the fat tax costs a Danish family with two children an additional 1,000 kroner (180 dollars), per year.

Reacting to the poll, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which leads Denmark's coalition center-left government, said the fat tax must be given more time to take effect.

"There are several parameters to measure the tax, one of which is purely economic, where you have to consider a longer time period," SDP consumer affairs spokesperson Mette Reissmann, told DR News.

"Also, I never thought we would suddenly become a nation that rejects fatty foods. It takes a long time to change consumer behavior," she added.

The government's Commission on Prevention, tasked with finding ways to improve the nation's health, also said it is too early to evaluate the fat tax's impact. It believes the tax discourages purchase of unhealthy foods, and will help raise average Danish life expectancy by one week.

For their part, two-thirds of poll respondents suggested the government would do better by removing value added tax (VAT) on healthy foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, and instead raise it on food products containing fat and sugar.

Denmark already imposes 25 percent VAT on most consumer goods and food products.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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