Friday, September 2, 2011

Hungary Introduces 'Fat Tax'

The dobostorta cake, a five-layer vanilla and chocolate buttercream dessert with a caramel-glazed top layer, is probably Hungary's best-known treat -- at least after goulash. The cake can be seen in the vitrines of coffee houses and bakery shops lining the streets of Budapest.

"Hungarians are really into desserts," said Carolyn Banfalvi, co-founder of Taste Hungary. The tour company operator describes Hungarian food in general as "very fatty," with traditional cooking ingredients that include pork and goose fat. "What they call bacon here is often pieces of pure lard," she said.

The Hungarian government argues that this kind of diet is also leading to obesity and increased health problems, and that those who partake in indulgences like sweets should also pay a premium to help offset those costs. Enter the "fat tax."

Beginning Sept. 1, Hungarians will have to pay a 10 forint (€ 0.37) tax on foods with high fat, sugar and salt content, as well as increased tariffs on soda and alcohol. The expected annual proceeds of €70 million will go toward state health care costs, including those associated with addressing the country's 18.8 percent obesity rate, which is more than 3 percent higher than the European Union average of 15.5 percent according to a 2010 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In Germany, by comparison, 13.6 percent of adults are obese, with Romania at the bottom of the list with 7.9 percent. more