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Eat it, butter: Denmark rolls out fat tax. But will it work?

In Denmark over the weekend, lovers of fatty foods including butter and pizza paid more to indulge.

The government debuted a new tax on foods containing more than 2.3-per-cent saturated fat – affecting the cost of everything from milk to oils and packaged foods. Customers will pay about $3 per kilogram of saturated fat in a product.

The tax revenue will fund obesity-fighting measures, according to the Guardian.

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As one Copenhagen resident, Mathias Buch Jensen, told the Guardian: "You know, Danes are big fans of butter. We love fat."

He added: "Knowing the Danes, it could have the opposite effect. Like naughty children, when they are told not to do something, they do it even more."

Along with such policy changes as regulating fast food more tightly and tinkering with school cafeteria offerings, taxing fatty foods is seen by many people as a way to steer people toward healthier choices.

According to the Guardian, "Hungary has recently imposed a tax on all foods with unhealthy levels of sugar, salt and carbohydrates, as well as goods with high levels of caffeine. Denmark, Switzerland and Austria have already banned trans fats, while Finland and Romania are considering fat taxes."

Variations on these ideas have been floated here in Canada for years. Last year, Quebec medical specialists launched a campaign for a tax on junk food, saying that "eating less junk food reduces the risk of developing serious health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes," according to a CTV story.

And this month, another group urged the Quebec government to introduce a sugar tax on soft drinks and energy drinks.

So no doubt all eyes will be on Denmark's fat-tax experiment.

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But should fatty foods like French fries or sugary foods like cola be taxed at a higher rate? Would this make you think twice at the cash register?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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