Experts suggest 'fat tax' to cut obesity

Hardly a day goes by without the growing problem of obesity making headlines and yet the healthy eating message still doesn't seem to be getting through.

Now experts have suggested that unhealthy foods should be treated in much the same way as tobacco, with restrictions on advertising, better labelling and a "fat tax" to discourage fast food lovers from indulging.

Boy eating a hamburger
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The proposal from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Health Organisation, was based on research into obesity and its related heath problems in England, Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia and South Africa.

The report claims that combining a tax on junk food, restricting food advertising and improving labelling was cheaper than treating the diseases associated with an unhealthy diet. Researchers also suggested that subsidising healthier options may encourage Brits to eat well.

"A multiple-intervention strategy would achieve substantially larger health gains than individual interventions, often with a more favourable cost-effectiveness profile" the authors concluded.

According to their research, such a strategy would pay for itself within 15 years in half of those countries studied.

Although one in four people in Britain is now classed as obese, experts within the food industry have complained that taxing foods high in fat, salt and sugar is just another example of the 'Nanny State'.

And research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that a fat tax would unfairly affect the poor, taking a larger percentage of their food budget than those that are better off financially.

A spokesman for the Food and Drink Federation told the Daily Mail yesterday: "Such a regressive taxation policy would do nothing more than create lighter wallets for consumers.

"They would be likely to rail against any 'Nanny State' intervention that represented a further tax on choice."

What do you think? Would a fat tax discourage you from eating junk food or have you had enough of the Nanny State? Leave your comments below...