The Greens would support an investigation into how a 'fat
tax' on processed food in New Zealand's supermarkets could be
But the government has dismissed the idea, saying it would
add to the burden of families in tight economic times.
Economist Gareth Morgan is calling for the move in his new
book, Appetite for Destruction, which says unhealthy
processed foods should be taxed at a higher rate than
healthier options as a way to combat the country's obesity
He told TVNZ's Q+A programme fast food was only one factor of
the problem, but the main focus needed to be on processed
foods sold in supermarkets.
"You go through a supermarket and it's virtually all now
processed food, which is not a crime in its own right,
obviously, but when you do the decomposition of processed
food and you see how energy intensive it is and how nutrient
light it is, our bodies simply can't handle it."
Health professionals should be involved in creating a system,
such as traffic light colours, where a red light labels on
foods attracted the highest tax, Dr Morgan said.
Kevin Hague, Green Party spokesperson on health and
wellbeing, said he would be interested to read Mr Morgan's
new book as it sounded similar to party policy on combating
Clear front labelling of unhealthy ingredients and a
traffic-light type classification system is a "no-brainer",
said Mr Hague.
But while the Greens would endorse increased taxes on
unhealthy products such as alcohol, cigarettes and sugary
drinks, it may be too difficult to police a wide range of
food, he said.
"In a broader sense a tax on unhealthy foods is more complex
and would require a more technical process. There is some
dispute among academics about how exactly to design a tax to
In 2011, Denmark introduced a tax on butter, meat, cheese,
pizza, oil and processed food that contained more than 2.3
per cent saturated fat, but withdrew it a year later due to
difficulty in implementing it.
However, the Greens would support an investigation into how
to design an effective processed food tax.
"The urgency to combat obesity is so great, we should be
exploring all these avenues," said Mr Hague.
"Spending on prevention of obesity should be the absolute
priority for any health minister."
However the government said processed food was unlikely to be
taxed anytime soon.
"Families don't need a special tax on food and the Government
has no plans to introduce one," said Health Minister Tony
"Such a tax would add to the burden of many families in tight
The Labour Party has suggested in the past GST be removed
from fruit and vegetables, which Dr Morgan dismissed.
- Calida Smylie of APNZ