Europe Fighting to Outlaw Obesity With Fat Tax

European governments seek to mandate healthier diets.

ByABC News
January 12, 2010, 8:15 AM

Jan. 12, 2010 — -- Can governments really legislate a svelte population? A number of governments in Europe, concerned about the growing waistlines of their citizens, seem to think so.

The Spanish government wants to ban excessive trans fats, Denmark will soon be taxing sweets and in Romania, Health Minister Attila Cseke has said he would like to see a tax on unhealthy food.

In Germany, too, there are some in Berlin who would like to see a government offensive against girth. In a Monday interview with the Rheinische Post, Green Party floor leader Renate Künast wants to ban advertising for sweets aimed at children.

"Aggressive advertising campaigns aimed at children 12 years and younger should be forbidden," Künast told the paper. "Food commercials, which are mostly ads for sweets, should not be broadcast during children shows. We need a ban."

Künast's comments come as several European Union governments are taking a closer look at the eating habits of their citizenry. Last week in Bucharest, Cseke announced that a new tax would go into effect at the beginning of March on fast food. About 25 percent of the Romanian population is considered obese, according to estimates by the Romanian Society of Nutrition.

"The new tax will account for a percentage of fast food product sales and the revenues that we will collect will be used to supplement funds needed to run health programs and invest in system infrastructure," Cseke said.

A number of large fast-food chains, including McDonalds and KFC, would be affected by the tax. Should it go into effect as announced by Cseke, it would be the first such tax in the world. The parliament in Taiwan is also set to consider a similar law this year.

According to the World Health Organization, the prevalence of obesity has tripled in many European countries since the 1980s, with the rate, particularly among children, continuing to rise. For years, studies have found Germans among the most obese people in Europe, with Greeks and the British likewise tending toward the ultra-large. But obesity is seen as a growing problem in many European countries.