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Junk-food tax: 79% people want unhealthy foods taxed more, finds survey

Raising the price and lowering its availability around schools and playgrounds will help take junk food out of the reach of young children, who are at risk of developing obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke a decade earlier than their parents.

health Updated: May 26, 2017 12:10 IST
junk food,sin tax,junk food tax
Children are increasingly eating unhealthy food and becoming less active, which is leading to rising obesity, diabetes and heart disease in teenagers and young adults(Shutterstock)

Seventy nine percent people are in favour of a “sin tax” on foods high in fat, sugar and salt and 88% want junk-food advertising banned on children’s channels on television, found an online survey.

Raising taxes will make unhealthy junk food more expensive and help to take it out of the reach of children, said netizens on LocalCircles, an online forum that invites debate on top-of-the-mind social concerns.

“We converted an ongoing discussion into a poll so actionable steps could be taken. Many of those surveyed, who were mostly parents, said increasing the prices of foods like chips and cold-drinks and lowering its availability will go a long way in reducing its consumption in children,” said Yatish Rajawat, chief strategy officer at LocalCircles.

A multipronged approach is needed to raise a healthier generation. “Taking the junk food away from schools, taxing it, subsidising nutritious food, promoting healthy eating habits at school and at home are needed to beat early-onset of diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases that are caused by wrong food habits and sedentary lifestyle,” said Dr Anupam Sibal, senior paediatrician, at Indraprastha Apollo hospital.

Raising the price of junk food is not enough. “The parents are also debating ways to promote healthier eating habits and have suggested that nutritious food must receive subsidy equivalent to the sin tax on junk food,” said Rajawat.

In 2011, Denmark had introduced a fat tax on butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed food if the item contains more than 2.3% saturated fat. it was rolled back a year later because as it failed to change Danes’ eating habits and instead, encouraged cross border trading.

Last year, Kerala became the first India state to impose a 14.5% fat tax on burgers, pizzas and other junk food served at branded restaurants.

A petition asking for a ban on sale of junk food in schools was filed in Delhi high court by Uday Foundation in 2010. The court had in 2015 directed the administrator of Delhi, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to formulate and circulate guidelines on availability of healthy food items in schools.

CBSE had issued a circular in 2016 that read, “Schools are required to ensure that there is no HFSS (high fat, sugar and salt) foods such as chips, fried foods, carbonated drinks, ready-to-eat noodles, pizzas, burgers... available in the school canteens. Schools are also urged to take necessary steps to ensure non-availability of HFSS 200 metres around the school.”

“This move will help as the purchasing power has now shifted from the parents to the children, who usually have R 50 to 100 of spending money. Chips and cold-drinks are available everywhere, even small paan shops, making it very easy to make impulse purchases,” said Rajawat.

First Published: May 26, 2017 12:10 IST