UN decides to tax Junk Food?

Katherine - posted on 03/12/2012 ( 15 moms have responded )




Most of overlap between the food world and the United Nations' mandate is about life-threatening hunger. The UN steps in to facilitate the distribution of food aid to those in desperate need. But a recent report from Olivier de Schutter [pdf], the UN's Special Rapporteur on the right to food, shows that when it comes to the UN's activities in the food world, feast can be just as important as famine.

"The right to food cannot be reduced to a right not to starve," the report explains. "States have a duty to protect the right to an adequate diet, in particular by regulating the food system."

In other words: letting the food industry create an environment that makes citizens unhealthy constitutes a violation of human rights. And the report argues that many Western governments have done just that by allowing "agrifood" businesses to sell fattening foods at low prices.

The report notes that over one billion people -- one in seven alive today -- are overweight or obese, a major factor behind the growth of many noncommunicable diseases, like heart disease and diabetes. Such diseases have so far gone relatively unaddressed by the UN because they were not included in the organization's Millenium Development Goals, which have guided its activities since 2000.

But de Schutter's report isn't just a series of complaints. It provides possible solutions as well. Some are relatively uncontroversial. He argues governments should ban trans fats, regulate the marketing of unhealthy foods and encourage the spread of farmers' markets and other access points for fresh produce.

The main suggestion of the report, though, is that governments implement taxes on soda and junk food, a perennially contentious topic. Specifically, the report recommends a 10 percent tax on soda and other foods "high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, sodium and sugar."

The report cites studies that have indicated that such a tax would reduce soda consumption by eight to 10 percent. And a recent analysis of soda taxes predicted that the measure would raise billions that could be dedicated to the support of health measures. Still, critics say such taxes are regressive and an unwelcome intrusion by an overactive nanny state.

Either way, de Schoutter's decision to discuss the dangers of obesity in a forum more often reserved for starvation is a sign of how serious the problem has become.


Fair? I don't think so. I'm on the fence.


Mrs. - posted on 03/13/2012




But Emma, if it is just a "treat" every once and awhile, then it would easy to save up the extra money to get it.

Fast food does more to cause depression and health issues than dish cleaning or cooking does generally.

The thing is, there are alternatives that are healthy and fast. If those restaurants and stores suddenly become the cheaper alternative - many might take a second look at them.

Not to mention, this is move to support those places, like say, even Chipoltle (in North America) and the other places I've visited in the UK that offer non-processed, fresh easy food. In supporting these places, it encourages new places to crop up and fill the gap of the "treat". In the long run, everyone wins.

Isobel - posted on 03/13/2012




I think it's an awesome idea, I hope though, that they make sure that the impoverished neighbourhoods in the us have grocery stores installed before they do this.

It`s not fair to tax the crap out of it if it`s the only food source available.

Jenni - posted on 03/13/2012




I'm almost giddy with delight. Honestly, they tax the crap out of cigarettes for similar reasons. I'm happy to see some light shed on the issue of unhealthy foods and hope to see some regulations passed to ensure a healthy next generation. The food industry is the new tobacco industry in my opinion. So any steps like this is a step in the right direction.

Junk food should be more expensive than fresh fruit, veggies and other healthy foods.... not the opposite way around.

And I'd rather the money go to our government than fast food corps. Sorry, they don't give enough back to our communities. The government provides healthcare, education, and other services that could use the extra money and improve these services for us. As well as help in foreign aid.

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 03/13/2012




Yep, I say go for it. Honestly, junk food should be more expensive than healthy food. Junk food is prepared for us. Healthy food is not. We should be paying more for prepared items not for items WE have to prepare oursleves...

The main reason people are so obese is due to the cheapness of junk food. If it was more expensive, they would have to learn how to cook and treat their families to a good, healthy, square meal...

You could buy a double cheeseburger at Mc Dicks for $1.47. So, a family of 4. Well, 2 burgers each is only 12 bucks... You just fed your family on 12 bucks...

Many people are not educated on how to buy good foods and how to prepare them. If they are forced to, in an expense way, then they will see they could get twice as many burgers for 12 bucks if they were homemade. You know, these fast food joints add additives to make you crave and come back. It's called MSG.. ;)


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[deleted account]

Takes me about $6 to buy a pound of hamburger (little less) and $4 to buy a pack of buns (8). Then you have cheese which costs a lot.... So it IS cheaper for me to feed my family a double cheeseburger each (only the $6) than to make my own. Except for the fact that I have food stamps and McD's doesn't take those... and I'd have to pay for the gas to GET there. ;)

And that's my only input cuz we rarely ever eat 'fast food' because of the reason I already stated above.

Stifler's - posted on 03/13/2012




The point is that take away is a treat for people who are sick of cooking every night to have it thrown in their faces by their kids. It just causes me to be depressed when we haven't got the money for take away and I have to cook and do the dishes and clean up mess.

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 03/13/2012




They may not lower healthy food but it will seem like they did, once the junk food is more expensive. ;)

Really though, when you think about it. Healthy food is not more expensive in the long run. It is initially though. You can get a heck of a lot more out of $12 worth of hamburger than 8 hamburgers for $12 at Mc Dicks... This may force people to understand that, thus enabling them to eat healthier. I am in hope of that, anyhow...

Jodi - posted on 03/13/2012




I say yes, and drop the prices of HEALHTY food. It's ridiculous how much the food that's good for you costs, and how little it costs to fill your family up on crap! I have no problem on taxing items that are unnecessary and unhealthy, but I think it's *more* important to lower prices of healthy foods.

[deleted account]

I don't see a problem with it. I know people will still buy it, but the UN could use the $ they raise from the tax to get food to countries that don't have it, and it will curb consumption a little bit--I think the 8 to 10% estimate was good.

I like Tracey's idea about forcing fast food companies to sponsor projects. They would just raise their prices to cover the added expense, so it would have the same effect on sales as a tax would, except the company would be in control of how much to raise prices and where to spend the money instead of the government.

Tracey - posted on 03/13/2012




The UN should concentrate more on those who have no food or water than those who have too much.

How about instead of taxing the fast food companies have them sponsor projects in the developing world to provide clean water and farming equipment.

Stifler's - posted on 03/12/2012




Junk food here (as in McDonalds and KFC and other take aways) are REALLY expensive. Because of some stupid tax. I think ti's bullshit. Just like alcohol tax and smoking tax. People won't stop buying it they will just go broke and have less money for everything else. Because it's addictive. i don't see that there is a solution, only natural selection.

Johnny - posted on 03/12/2012




I don't really have a problem with it. It kind of bothers me that junk is cheap and healthy food is expensive. Although, it probably doesn't bother me because I don't usually buy it, so I doubt I'd even notice the hit. In fact, it would just reduce how often I buy it from not often to very rarely. And that would be great.

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