In a bold move, Denmark has introduced a "fat tax", the aim of which is to discourage unhealthy diets and offset some of the high costs of obesity to the Danish economy. Could it also mean the end of the Danish pastry?



I have spent four days in Copenhagen and, apart from my visit to the Tuborg brewery for research purposes, my main goal was to taste Danish pastries. I needed to find out just how many flavours there were. I also needed to test just how good a Danish pastry could get.



Fortunately, I did the research some years ago: if I repeated it today the costs would obviously be prohibitive.



This new law imposes a tax of 16 Danish krone per kilogram of saturated fat in meat products, some dairy products including butter and double cream, extracted animal fats, cooking oils, margarine and "spreadable composite products". (Whatever they are, one shudders to think.)

Advertisement



Would this mean that a happy meal with a chocolate shake would cost $45? Is there any way you could reduce the cost?



"I'd like a double beef burger please but hold the onion and the spreadable composite products."



If you could find a lower fat version, it might be more affordable: products containing less than 2.3 per cent per weight of saturated fat are exempt from the tax. For a relatively low price, you could probably omit the fatty elements of your burger and simply enjoy the slice of gherkin. And a Diet Coke.



Naturally, Danish dairy farmers are worried about dairy sales drying up. But there is a saviour not far away in the German city of Hanover. Anke Domaske, 28, has developed a fabric called QMilch made from high concentrations of the milk protein, casein.



It is the first man-made fibre produced entirely without chemicals, the closest thing we have to being able to wear a milkshake.



According to its maker, it does not smell and you can wash it just like your other clothes. What's more, it feels like silk. But that's a story for another time - back to the present.



Managing this new fat tax must be complicated. In fact, it was all too much for me to comprehend so I asked someone in the street. If you need to know something, you can't go wrong with "the man in the street".



Me: How do you think the Danes impose their fat tax?

Advertisement



Man in the Street: What's a Dane?



Undaunted, I tried another one:



Me: Excuse me, sir. How do you think the Danes impose their fat tax?



Man in the Street 2: I reckon someone from the government would go round with a slotted box and ask fat people to put money in it.



Naturally enough, I wanted to know whether our government was thinking along the same lines so I made a tax-deductible call to Mr Key.



Mr Key: I can neither confirm nor deny any discussion of a fat tax. Obviously, with an election looming, we don't want to frighten off the punters by introducing any more taxes - in fact we thought we'd already taxed everything. Maybe a fat tax could come in after we win the election. As well as a tax on anything else we might have forgotten.



In fact, I'll make that an election promise right here and now. Sorry, must run - my double whopper with cheese is going cold.



Me: If you do it, could you please make hokey pokey icecream exempt?



Mr Key's Phone: Click.



I find it interesting that Denmark is the country imposing this tax. Just under 10 per cent of Danes are considered obese and that's considerably lower than the 15 per cent average for the whole of Europe.



But compare that with USA's figure (33.8 per cent) and you'll know for sure where a fat tax should have started. Of course, I know you can do almost anything with figures - just take a look at what those 33.8 per cent have done with theirs!



In fact an idea is hatching as I type.



Introduced in America, with its huge population (sorry), this tax could be a good little earner. I'm off to discuss the possibility with Barack Obama. I'm looking for a commission figure I can retire on.



I'll book the flight just as soon as I've finished this custard-filled pastry.

Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, public speaker and musician.