How Junk Food Taxes Are Working In Hungary
In the past 18 months, the country has added an extra tax to certain packaged foods in an attempt to curb what some see as a public health crisis.
What's the Latest Development?
Of all the European governments that have attempted to change unhealthy eating habits by taxing certain foods, Hungary has gone the furthest by imposing taxes on certain salty and sugary packaged foods. Energy drinks were also included in the tax, but manufacturers of those products changed their formulas to get around it, which was one reason why the amount of revenue generated last year was about $13 million less than expected. Other manufacturers weren't so lucky, according to food industry expert Reka Szollosi: "There was practically no consultation before [the government] decided on these taxes...[T]aking salt out of a product can have serious technical consequences."
What's the Big Idea?
High rates of obesity and salt consumption have contributed to Hungarians having one of the lowest life expectancy rates in Europe. While the taxes were welcomed by public health officials, others aren't convinced that they will make a difference. Hit hard by the economic crisis, people are buying less food in general, and Szollosi says that most are getting their salt from home-cooked food. The taxes send the wrong signal, she says: "[People] are saying to themselves, 'O.K., I don’t eat chips, I’m O.K.,' and that just isn’t true."
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