Imposing Higher VAT: UK’s Battle Against Obesity Continues

The UK’s Health Select Committee are now proposing to raise the VAT rates of unhealthy foods in an effort to conquer the obesity crisis in Britain. They are also calling on other measures to be implemented such as extending the country’s new sugar tax to puddings, milkshakes and chocolate. Most food is VAT zero-rated, while many types of junk food attract the standard rate of 17.5%.

The UK’s Health Select Committee are now proposing to raise the value added tax (VAT) rates of unhealthy foods in an effort to conquer the obesity crisis in Britain. They are also calling on other measures to be implemented such as extending the country’s new sugar tax to puddings, milkshakes and chocolate (not just sodas) as well as a restriction on two-for-one fast food meal deals. Dr. Sarah Wollaston, chair of the committee said – Ministers should consider increasing VAT on foods with high fat, sugar or salt content in an effort to tackle obesity.

Currently, most food is VAT zero-rated, while many types of junk food attract the standard rate of 17.5% in the UK. However, in France there is a VAT rate of 20.6% for sweets, margarine, chocolates and even vegetable fat.

Jack Winkler, professor of nutrition policy at London Metropolitan University, said: “‘The next chapter in the childhood obesity plan should make clear an explicit objective not just to make the healthy choice the easier choice, but to make the healthy choice the cheaper choice.”

However, Professor Christopher Snowdon, director of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs criticised this proposal stating: “Raising taxes and banning retailers from offering discounts on a vast range of food will inevitably lead to bigger shopping bills. Everybody will be hit, not just the obese, and people on low incomes will be hit hardest of all.”

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