Romania becomes first country to introduce junk-food tax

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A new tax on junk food products will be introduced as of March 2010 in Romania, the proceeds of which will go on health programmes, EurActiv Romania reports. The move appears to set a worldwide precedent.

The new tax is due by the juridical persons who produce, import or process unhealthy foodstuffs, with a high content of salt, fats, sugar and additives. 

More precisely, the products are defined as: 

  • Fast-food products; 
  • The cake and candy-making industry; 
  • Snacks and crisps, and; 
  • Soda, except water and fresh bottled juice. 

Health Minister Attila Czeke said on Tuesday (5 January) that he will introduce the fast-food tax in order to contribute to the country's health programmes. 

He also said he had asked his administration to prepare details of the exact modalities of the new tax. He promised to hold discussions with producers and distributors of the products in question. 

The proceeds, to be collected as of 1 March 2010, will be considered income for the health ministry to spend on health programmes. 

The ministry justified its proposal by pointing out that more and more people in Europe suffer from obesity, increasing the risk of diabetes, hypertension and premature death. 

"Unhealthy food boosts the number of fatalities and health spending, it reduces productivity, harms quality of life and reduces life expectancy," a ministry document says. 

Dragos Frumosu, head of Romania's food industry federation, warned the tax will raise prices and cause producers to move their businesses to other countries, the Mediafax agency reported. 

Frumosu also complained that the draft law had been elaborated without a public discussion. 

A fast-food tax, also referred to as a 'junk food tax' or 'Whopper tax', has been discussed for many years in the US but has never been introduced. 

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