Fat Tax

This is an older article that escaped my wrath but luckily I just found it again.   It seems after one year the Danish have scrapped their fat tax.   Why?  It was hurting the economy and the small businesses.  The stupid tax was on any food containing more than 2.3% saturated fat, as “a potential model for addressing obesity and other health concerns”.  Really?    I could make someone fat with sugar and corn which have no saturated fat.  And what if research shows that saturated isn’t as bad as they said it was (true story)?  The article said products such as butter, oil, sausage, cheese and cream were subject to increases of as much as 9% immediately after the new tax was enacted.  How was that fair?     These are not even processed foods!   This is what you get when you have a government that overreaches to control their population.  It is a model that we are trying to replicate here in the US and we need to show those idiots that push this sort of stuff how it has failed overseas.   “Peter Giørtz-Carlsen, head of the Danish consumer market at Arla Foods—the country’s largest dairy company—said the fat tax has driven consumers toward lower-quality cheeses.”   Ahh, the best laid plans of mice and men and cheese.

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected]

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12 Responses

  1. regnad kcin RN BSN BAMF LS/MFT says:

    Unfortunately, it is not about obesity control, it is simply about control. (kinda like “gun control”) Our 2 parties certainly differ: one wants More! Government, and the other wants it, FASTER!

  2. Pat says:

    Good damn grief Newberry, a regulation of businesses IS a regulation of individuals. What if I want aged Danish cheese stirred in to a Mountain Dew and Krispy Kreme smoothie, with a side of Camels?? It is only your business if you are paying for it, precisely the philosophical ground on which doctors have betrayed their patients and this profession. We should be counsellors and may properly advocate publicly – to a point. When physicians support taxes for “good” purposes and abet political pusillanimity, then we come agents not for the individual, but of force.

    If physicians don’t first advocate for the individual, then what point is there to our existence?

    • T Newberry says:

      Pat other than your first and last sentence you make very little sense to me. I mean that your point is not clear, not that I disagree with it.

      As for the first sentence you are clearly wrong by definition. Let me offer a failure of regulation as an example of what I mean. Pam cooking spray is a “fat-free” food. Which is odd because other than the propellant, the only ingredient is oil. The makers of Pam know what the current view of fat is so they reduced the serving size so that each serving contains less than 0.5g of fat. So, even though it is 100% fat, FDA regulations allow them to round the 0.5g down to zero. If the FDA starts forcing Pam to be honest on their label how is that regulation of an individual? Then Pam would have to rely on their actual advantage, which is that you use less oil than if you pour it out of a bottle.

      To be clear, I am not a fan of Bloomberg’s ban on large sodas, although I applaud him for trying to do SOMETHING. I consider the regulation way too heavy-handed and, more importantly, I don’t think it is likely to accomplish his purpose. But it is still very much a regulation of businesses not individuals.

      As for the last sentence, advocate against whom or what? The government? The government is supposed to represent the collective will of the people. To the extent it does not, it is because it has been captured by business, or rather profiteers in general. The profiteers are also responsible for ALL the problems in health care, by the way. Make no mistake about it, if you are advocating for your patients you are advocating against business interests.

      • Pat says:

        Okay T. , I truly want to be rational and clear, so… I abhor Bloomberg et al and their busy-bodyness precisely because such oversteps the proper boundaries of elected officials. Claiming Bloomberg’s soda ban to affect businesses but not individuals is facile. Why do you applaud him for doing something that you admit will have no affect? Is that not an admission of appearance-as-substance?

        I’ve no problem AT ALL with truth in labeling – kudos to your scholarship on Pam – as reasonable regulation that applies equally to all.

        My larger point is that government beyond a very limited sense is antithetical to the individual, thusly contrary to my view of the purpose of medicine which should be the promotion of that same individual. If that is not the ultimate goal of medicine, then we are just assembly technicians repairing units to go back out and serve the collective will.

        By advocating for the “collective will” against businesses, one establishes himself as the moral arbiter of ostensibly private entities, some good, some bad. All my life I’ve rankled at the charges of doctors “playing God”, yet we deserve that criticism when we set ourselves up as such judges; ironically, we also establish that we are thoughtless pawns when we become blind agents of government.

        You stated: “The profiteers are also responsible for ALL the problems in health care.” Do you literally believe this? Newberry, I beg you to consider that the greatest of all special interests IS government; not all profits are financial, and it is politicians and bureaucrats who profit most from the subservience of our profession.

        • T Newberry says:

          Pat, can I convince you that abhorring anything is not rational? And that using a term like “proper boundaries” as if that were a self-defining term is not clear?

          I did NOT say that the soda ban affected businesses not individuals. I said it was a regulation OF businesses, not individuals. Facile perhaps. But also true and reasonable, unlike the way you rephrased it. I also definitely did not say that the ban will have no effect. I said it was UNLIKELY TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSE, which is to reduce obesity. Is that a worthy goal in your mind?

          I admire Bloomberg for what he is trying to accomplish. You abhor him for the way he is trying to accomplish it (or is it just because he sits across the aisle from you?). I am DISAPPOINTED in the way he is trying to accomplish it. I think the real danger comes from suggesting that nothing should be tried at all.

          INEFFECTIVE government, regardless of its size or scope, is what is antithetical to the individual. I would agree that Bloomberg’s ban PROBABLY falls into this category. What is good for the individual is not always good for the group and vice versa. Those on the right advocate for the individual. Those on the left advocate for the group. Despite what they think, neither is right all the time. Compromise between the two should usually lead to the overall best solution. Those of us in the middle think both groups have become caricatures of themselves.

          If you can name any problem in health care that does not have a profit motive at its heart, I would love to hear it. The fact that government action might enhance, diminish or distort the profit motive makes government part of the problem, not THE problem. Saying that the government is the greatest of all special interests is a right wing meme. And you accuse me of being facile? Heal thyself!

          • Pat says:

            “Abhor” is not rational? How then do I rationally describe my utter contempt and disdain for those who seek to tell others what to do, if only for their own emotional aggrandizement? This Fat Tax topic, soda bans, et al point to a fatal fault in medicine. Being a post-freedom physician means one embraces, simultaneously, being told by some what to tell others to do, as a substitute to the use of one’s own rational judgement. In an increasingly irrational world, what terms shall I use? LOL, okaaay, not ‘affected’ but ‘regulated’ – at any rate businesses are made up of, and run by individuals, so let us end the semantic dance. Alas, my feeble powers of description fail me.

            As for right-wing “meme”, I’m not up on all the new terms the kids are using these days, nor so easily grouped. I prefer the Beatles to Katy Perry, and choose not to take part in bossing others around.

          • T Newberry says:

            Pat, first of all, let me say that I am enjoying this exchange. You are not angering me and I hope I am not angering you. Of course, I live in the middle, which you clearly don’t, and we don’t tend to get too angry.

            The complement to “rational” is “emotional”. It just doesn’t make sense for you to say you want to be rational and then immediately use an emotionally-charged word like “abhor”. It demonstrates a lack of rationality about the topic. Seriously, how dismissive of you to suggest that Bloomberg is seeking emotional aggrandizement. He says he is trying to combat rampant obesity, which most definitely exists. Who are you to recharacterize his motives?

            There are two sides to a business transaction, the business and the customer. To say that they are all the same is, once again, recharacterizing the argument.

            A “meme” is a self-propogating thought. The veracity of the thought is irrelevant. Memes become “information cascades” – hearing a “fact” from even just two seemingly independent sources makes it SEEM true. A special interest is a NARROW interest. Calling the government a “special interest” redefines the term. That started as a right wing sound bite that became a meme that turned into an information cascade for anyone who doesn’t think about it critically.

            Consider this. McDonalds is one of the biggest contributors to a poor diet in this country. Is it their fault? Well, what if they announced that they had seen the light and would start offering only fruits and vegetables. How long would they be in business? Don’t hate the player. Hate the game. As I have said before, I don’t have a solution. But I see no way to change the game without regulation. Do you? Or are you happy with the game as it is being played?

        • Pat says:

          TN, I too enjoy being in the ring. Otherwise, I refer the honorable gentleman opposite to the response I gave above. Adde parvum parvo magnus acervus erit (“add little to little, and there will be a big pile).

  3. T Newberry says:

    Butter, oil, sausage, cheese and cream do not exist in nature. They are most definitely processed foods. It is processed foods, not the saturated fat in them, that are the problem. The failure of one regulatory effort is hardly reason to abandon all future efforts. We clearly cannot trust the food industry to regulate itself. Let’s start by eliminating farm subsidies, which are a windfall for large corporate agribusiness. We can argue about meat and dairy and processing, but the one dietary point that everyone can agree on is that fruits and vegetables are good for your health. Yet nearly 3/4 of subsidies go either directly or indirectly (through grain feed) to meat and dairy producers while less than 1% goes to fruits and vegetables.

    “There is no connection between food and health. People are
    fed by a food industry which pays no attention to health and
    are healed by a health industry that pays no attention to
    food.” – Wendell Berry

    The first part of that statement is obvious. As for the second part, how many nutrition classes did you take in medical school?

    • Doug Farrago says:

      In med school? Not enough I am sure (over 20 years ago so it is hard to remember). But it has been my personal passion for my whole career and my Master’s was in Exercise Science at U of H. That being said, I think you can agree that there are degrees of “processed”. And yes, I don’t trust these industries and your point about subsidizing HFCS and such is right on. When it is all said and done, fat taxing things, IMHO, is not the way to go.

      • T Newberry says:

        Well, Doug, let’s not forget that you are one of the Good Guys AND an exception. Else, why publish the Authentic Medicine Gazette?

        I absolutely agree that not all processing is equal. The spectrum runs from refined sugar and HFCS on one end to fresh-pressed vegetable juice on the other end. Both processed, but definitely not equal. The main problem with a fat tax is that fat is not likely to be the culprit in whatever nutritional story you are trying to tell. The health of our population started to deteriorate as we became a richer nation with more access to animal products (like butter, oil, sausage, cheese and cream). The reaction should have been “We are eating too many animals.” (Full disclosure – I am NOT a vegetarian.) Instead it was “What is it about the animals that is so bad? Hey, look at all this saturated fat!” But no study has borne out the connection between saturated fat, or fat in general, with incidence of disease. (See the Nurses Study that shows no change in heart disease despite lower intakes of fat and saturated fat.) The problem has become worse with more and more processed food. Both represent dense forms of macronutrients, with decreased levels of micronutrients, particularly in the case of processed food and grain-fed beef.

        The more relevant example of food regulation than the Danish fat tax is Bloomberg’s ban on large sodas in NYC. This is a well-intentioned, but probably ill-fated effort to stop businesses from taking advantage of a known human weakness. If you don’t see what I mean, then consider this: Do people choose to overeat or does the food they choose MAKE them overeat? Interesting that the business community convinced the public that this was an assault on individual freedoms when it was in fact a regulation of business, not individuals. Business plays dirty. I am totally in favor of the government protecting the public from predatory businesses. Unfortunately, I am not wise enough to know what form of protection would actually be effective. But let’s start by eliminating those damn farm subsidies!

        By the way, at some point we should debate the difference between fitness and health. They ARE different things.

        • Doug Farrago says:


          I agree with all you said. And why don’t write up an entry for a blog on the difference between the two? We can debate from there.

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