GUY RAZ, Host:
We all know that fatty foods can add inches to your waistline. Now in Denmark, they'll also lighten your wallet. This weekend, a so-called fat tax went into effect there. The tax charges an extra 16 Kroner - or about $3 - for every kilogram of saturated fat. Butter, oils, sweets - Danes are paying more for all of them now. The government hopes costlier junk food will lead to better Danish diets and to a bump in tax revenue. For more on the new tax, we're joined by Jakob Sorgenfri Kjaer. He's a business reporter for the Danish newspaper Politiken. Jakob, welcome to the program.
JAKOB SORGENFRI KJAER: Thanks.
RAZ: How did this tax come to be? Where did the idea come from?
SORGENFRI KJAER: Well, it's been in discussion for some time now. What can you do to basically improve public health? And we've seen before a small increase on some sorts of fats but this one is by far the most intense fat scheme that we've seen.
RAZ: You say response to public health. Is obesity a problem in Denmark?
SORGENFRI KJAER: Not in comparison to other countries. For instance, in the U.S., one-third is suffering from obesity; and in Denmark it's one out of 10. So, it's not, in comparison to other countries, a big issue. Then again, if you look at the prospect, then it will grow to become a substantial problem.
RAZ: So, give me a sense, say, of the price of a package of butter on Friday versus a package of butter today now that tax is in place.
SORGENFRI KJAER: That would be, like, local currency, like two Kroners, saying pretty much 50 cents. So, it doesn't sound like a lot, but then again I just came back from a local grocery and it's 800 products right there that needed to change price labels. That's why we've seen that people have been hoarded butter, bacon, milk, cookies and pre-cooked foods the past month. We've talked to some of the local food producers saying that will they increase their sale by 50, 60 percent just in September because, well, people just basically cued up to get their favorite products at a cheaper price.
RAZ: So, this can add something like 10 to 15 percent on top of the average grocery bill now in Denmark, right?
SORGENFRI KJAER: Well, if people continue their habits of buying the same products. But then again, the whole concept of this new legislation is that people should change their habits. We have a new center-left government coming into place today and they started off by saying, well, we're going to continue this focus on public health through taxes. So, this is definitely a development that's here to stay.
RAZ: But I do understand that some crafty Danes are driving over the border to neighboring Sweden and Germany to get their fats tax-free, right?
SORGENFRI KJAER: That's a big issue for the government. They need to look into how can we try to make the Danes live, you know, more healthy. But the risk is, of course, that people, they travel one hour, two hours down to Germany or to Sweden and then they just buy all their groceries there and that makes no taxes coming into the Danish government. So, you need to balance it and that's the whole discussion here.
RAZ: That's Jakob Sorgenfri Kjaer. He's a business reporter for the Danish newspaper Politiken, talking about the new so-called fat tax in Denmark. Jakob, thanks.
SORGENFRI KJAER: Sure, anytime.
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