Thursday, February 18, 2010

FIGHTING FAT

Silhouettes and waist circumferences represent...Image via Wikipedia

BUCHAREST - For post-communist Romanians, a Big Mac was a culinary signpost from the free and capitalist West - a sign they too, at last, had arrived. Now, Romania is moving to join the health conscious 21st century by proposing taxes on burgers, french fries, soda and other fast food with high fat and sugar content.

"We have to relearn how to eat," said Health Ministry official Adrian Cercel said.

The ministry says that - in marked contrast to the situation under communism - half of Romania's 22 million people are overweight, while instances of obesity have doubled among 10-year-olds.

Officials refuse to say how high the taxes would be. But the authorities expect to generate up to ?1 billion ($1.9 billion) in new revenues - compared with an estimated ?16 billion in total revenues for this year.

If the plan goes through, Romania will be aligning itself with - and even outdoing - other nations looking to crack down on fatty foods and encourage better eating.

Taiwan also recently floated a fast-food tax, while Denmark and Austria have made artery-clogging trans-fats illegal. Britain, Norway and Sweden have banned junk food commercials from TV at certain times of the day, while Norway also has long taxed sugar and chocolate.

In the United States, First Lady Michelle Obama this month unveiled a public awareness campaign called "Let's Move" to fight against childhood obesity. But Americans have generally been seen as less willing than Europeans to allow their government to dictate their diets.

Romania's Health Ministry has been analysing the nutritional content of some 40,000 fast foods and drinks over the past weeks to decide what exactly should be taxed before submitting the legislation to Parliament next month. AP

From TODAY, Friday, 19-Feb-2010
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