Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why We're Fat Volume 13

It appears that the Hungarians know something we Americans don't.

Hungary, better known for Goulash, is the home of some of the finest, most scrumptious, and delectable desserts and pastries on the planet.

The Dobostorta Cake, a luscious five-layer vanilla and chocolate buttercreme affair with a caramel-glaze on top, is considered a national treasure and is easily the most popular dessert treat in all of Hungary.

So, why tax it???

 "Hungarians are really into desserts," said Carolyn Banfalvi, co-founder of Taste Hungary, a gastronomic tour company. She describes Hungarian food, in general, as "very fatty," with traditional cooking ingredients that include pork and goose fat. "What they call bacon here is often pieces of pure lard," Ms. Banfalvi said.

The Hungarian government argues that this kind of diet is also leading to obesity and increased health problems, and that those who partake in indulgences like sweets should also pay a premium to help offset those costs.

Enter the "fat tax."

Beginning Sept. 1, Hungarians will have to pay a 10 forint ($0.05 USD or € 0.037) tax on foods with high fat, sugar and salt content, as well as increased tariffs on soda and alcohol. The expected annual proceeds of $98.7 million or €70 million will go toward state health care costs, including those associated with addressing the country's 18.8 percent obesity rate, which is more than 3 percent higher than the European Union average of 15.5 percent according to a 2010 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In Germany, by comparison, 13.6 percent of adults are obese, with Romania at the bottom of the list with 7.9 percent. 

So, what can we Americans learn from this?

Probably nothing.

Taxing that ginormo bag of Doritos® or adding an extra two bucks to that "Xtra Value Meal" probably would not have any effect whatsoever on the eating habits of Americans. The simple fact that "junk" foods and fast foods are so easily available and cheap, will not deter the consumers and manufacturers alike in their attempts to make and keep everyone obese.

Sadly, a simple tax cannot change an entire culture.

Especially, when half of the population in the United States will be clinically obese by 2030.

Facts and figures courtesy of Der Spiegel.

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