Fat Tax Suggested in New Zealand

W E L L I N G T O N, New  Zealand, June 15, 2001 -- A New Zealand nutritional group suggested today that food should be taxed according to its fat content in an effort to curb obesity.

More than half of all New Zealanders are overweight or obese, and obesity claims the lives of more than 1,000 people each year in this country of 4 million — twice the number killed in traffic accidents, Agencies for Nutrition Action said today.

"We've got to take action," Agencies chief Sue Zimmerman told National Radio. "We're saying if we don't include a really long-term commitment to prevention, we're going to be in trouble with this."

While there isn't much evidence that higher taxes would keep people from buying high-fat foods, "we're saying we should be looking at it," she said.

Zimmerman said, however, that she believed teaching people how to reduce fat in their diet may be a better way of handling the obesity problem.

"We make fantastic low-fat products in New Zealand but we need more incentive for their prices to be accessible to those people on low incomes," she said.