Romanian junk-food tax backed in Brussels

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The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) has expressed support for the Romanian government's tax on junk food in a letter co-signed by Romanian MEP Oana Antonescu (European People's Party).

As EurActiv reported, Romanian Health Minister Attila Czeke announced in January that he will introduce a fast-food tax in March as a way to improve the country's health programmes (EurActiv 07/01/10).

Despite being the first country ever to come up with fiscal measures to fight against obesity and other diet-realted diseases, EPHA said in an open letter addressed to Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc and Health Minister Czeke that Romania is not alone.

Welcoming the junk-food tax, the association said it could serve as a model for other EU member states to emanate in years to come.

The letter also highlighted the tax's economic impact and stated that "diet-related diseases cost the EU economy in excess of €192 billion a year"..

EPHA also urged the Romanian government to consider fiscal mechanisms and subsidies to increase the attractiveness and affordability of healthy food for consumers, as well as point out products that are high in sugar, salt and fats. Such measures have been successfully introduced in the UK.

Fast food "can have disastrous medium and long-term effects on the body," said centre-right MEP Antonescu. She indicated that the tax should be thought of as a form of education. "Funds generated by these taxes should be used exclusively for public information programmes on ingredients and substances that make them sick," Antonescu said.

"The proposal is also innovative in that it will generate income for the public health sector," the EPHA letter reads.

"An EU programme based on [this] initiative would be very welcome and […] could lead to a healthier standard diet in the EU," Antonescu concluded in her speech.

However, EurActiv Romania reported that a junk-food tax could increase food prices by over 20%, according to Sorin Minea, president of food producers group Romalimenta.

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