Canadians Pushing For Fat Tax

March 2, 2011 Taxation in Canada

Five Guys MealWith nearly two thirds of Canadians now being regarded as overweight or obese, a fresh round of debate has sparked up over the taxation of “fatty foods” or “fat taxes”.

Heated debates are currently going on across Canada, regarding the possibility of a “fat tax” to positively influence national eating habits. Currently the discussions revolves around two primary ideas, raising levies on unhealthy foods, and overhauling the country’s system of taxes on food items.

In Canada some foodstuffs are exempt from Goods and Service Tax (GST) based on several criteria, such as packaging, quantity sold and purchase location. Bill Jeffery, director of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, claimed that there is currently little coherence between ideal healthy eating standards and Canada’s tax treatment of foods. He noted that baked goods such as doughnuts could be exempt from GST, while fresh salads and fruits are not. Bill Jeffrey stated that the situation needs to be remedied with tax exemptions on all fruits and vegetables. The suggestion has received recent support and is being actively endorsed by the Canadian Medical Association, Centre for Science in the Public Interest and Weight Coalition of Quebec.

A separate call is also being raised for higher taxes on unhealthy foods. The move is being supported by the World Health Organization, which called for all developed nations to place heavier taxes on fattening foods, in a report released in August 2010. It was suggested that increased prices on foods that are perceived as being unhealthy would alter Canadians’ purchasing behaviors. John Turnbull, president of the Canadian Medical Association, commented on the proposal last week, saying that the revenues realized from the extra tax measures could be used to fund projects and initiatives which would result in lowered retail prices for fruits and vegetables. Alternatively, he proposed that the raised money could be used to start childhood exercise programs or public education campaigns.

Approximately 59 percent of Canadians are regarded as being medically overweight or obese. National expenditures on problems associated with weight gain were estimated to be CAD 6 billion in the year 2006.

Photo by Ramen Junkie