August 10, 2008

In The News: France's Fast Food Tax

Over in France (where “two thirds of French men and half of all women aged 35 to 74 are thought to be overweight, while one fifth of all adults are obese,”) a controversial new law is being mulled over which would “increase tax on extra-fatty, salty or sugary products to 19.6 percent (from 5.5 per cent now.)

I don’t see the point – or understand the logic.

First of all, I would hate for products high in healthy fats (i.e.: roasted peanuts, avocadoes, almond butters) to be lumped together with deep fried onion rings, particularly since this bill is going beyond burgers and fries and targeting sandwiches.

Additionally, a healthy and refreshing fruit smoothie -- made solely with actual fruit and, say, skim milk -- is high in sugars, but offers a different nutritional profile than a can of Sprite.

The main problem I have with this initiative is that it perpetuates this idea of “good foods” and “bad foods.”

Of course some foods are much healthier than others, but it’s not so much the foods themselves that are behind the increasing obesity rate, but how much of them people are eating.

A small side of potato chips (roughly 100 calories) with a sandwich is not a recipe for flab. It’s the ridiculously large, 500-calorie portions that take the blame.

Similarly, a small 80 calorie croissant is a great way to indulge in a tasty treat without going overboard. There's no reason why it should be highly taxed.

My suggestion? If they're hell-bent on implementing a tax, it should only apply to large portions.

It would at least prevent the now-familiar "for an additional 25 cents you can get three times as much food!" offers.

This is definitely a story to keep our eyes on – “the plans are expected to be put before legislators in September, who will vote on whether they should be implemented."

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