Jerusalem - Israel to Introduce Junk Food Tax to Battle Rising Obesity Levels Among Israelis
Jerusalem - Israelâ€™s Tax Authority and Health Ministry have teamed up to promote healthy eating and control obesity levels which have begun to spiral out of control among Israelis. Haaretz reports (http://bit.ly/NexzY6) that the Tax Authority will endorse a special tax on junk foods, while the Health Ministry supports a plan to allow specific labels to be placed on healthy food items.
Eran Yaakov, deputy director general for finance and development at the Tax Authority said that the tax is intended to get people to limit their intake of sugar and salt in their foods, and also to confront the types of unhealthy food given to children in schools. A committee comprised of representatives from the Health and Education Ministries will be organized to discuss the proposal of taxing harmful foods.
The Health Ministry had put forth the idea that proceeds from a junk food tax be utilized to treat overweight patients or to decrease the cost of healthy food. But Yaakov shot down the proposal, saying, â€śIn Israel, as a matter of policy, tax revenues are not earmarked for specific purposes. Funds collected are transferred to the state treasury and then the government decides what to invest in based on its order of priorities.â€ť
Figures released by the Healthy Ministry show that at least 37 percent of Israeli adults are overweight, while 15 percent are â€śchronically obese.â€ť Israeli children do not fare much better, with 14 percent of Israeli kids identified as overweight, and seven percent recorded as obese. Obesity among the Israeli population costs the economy a projected NIS 5.8 billion in healthcare-related expenditures.
One-third of Israelis support the idea of a tax on soft drinks and unhealthy snacks, according to a survey conducted by the Gertner Institute, a group which reviews health policy. Two-thirds of those questioned said they would get behind the tax if the monies collected are put toward fighting obesity and promoting healthy eating in the country.
Denmark and Finland already tax junk foods, including a special tax on foods which contain high sugar content. Austria taxes foods which are high in saturated fat, and France requires a special tax on chocolate and other candy. Some of these countries also have specific labels on healthy food items. Israel has already created a labeling system for whole-grain breads which will go into effect in a few weeks. The label will read, â€śThis bread meets the recommendations of the Health Ministry for proper nutrition.â€ť To receive the special label, the bread will have to contain 80 percent whole grain flour and not exceed the maximum allowable calorie and sodium count.
The Health Ministry is also drafting policies which will force restaurants and cafes to post the calories contained in their menu items, with the font size of the calorie count to be at least as large as the menu item. The number of calories will be verified by a laboratory approved by the Health Ministry. These regulations have been presented to the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee in the Knesset.
Itamar Grotto, director of public health services at the Health Ministry, said, â€śPrinting symbols or statements on food packages based on their healthfulness could cause problems because itâ€™s not possible to label fruits and vegetables which are considered the healthiest [food] sources. And with regard to drinks, diet soft drinks cannot be labeled as healthy for their low sugar content when the Ministry is interested in promoting the consumption of water.â€ť
More of today's headlines“Manhasset, NY - Ezras Nashim, the all womenâ€™s volunteer corps created to assist women in emergency childbirth situations, is one step closer to delivering their first...” Manhasset, NY - Brooklyn's Ezras Nashim Volunteers Partner With Prestigious Long Island Hospital “London - Britain's prime minister and top Olympic officials are gathering to mark the 40th anniversary of the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes in a terrorist attack at the...” London - 11 Israeli Athletes Remembered At Memorial