The Nutella Tax

Have you heard about the Nutella tax?  Or perhaps we should start with have you heard of Nutella, the incredibly rich hazelnut spread guaranteed to make you smile and destroy your dieting plans at the same time?  Can you tell I went through a Nutella period?  I don’t miss it anymore but it was good while it lasted.  Nutella, like any number of spreads, cookies, chips, etc. contains palm oil.   France imported 126,000 tons of palm oil for the food industry last year and you can find it in 13% of supermarket foods.  Last week, France came close to taxing palm oil (and by extension all products containing it) citing health and environmental reasons.  The Green Party, behind the proposal, noted both health safety concerns and the link between palm oil and deforestation.   The text has been shelved for the moment following an outcry from both the food industry and palm-oil producing countries such as Nigeria, Indonesia and Malaysia.  The tax money was marked for the Social Security fund (SECU).  Putting aside the environmental angle, I think the French government needs to come up with a better way to get people to eat healthier and be more active than simply coming up with yet another new tax (and this in a country that has taxes on taxes!).

The Nutella tax fits into the larger (developing) category of taxing anything deemed unhealthy.  On January 1st of this year, the “Coca-Cola” tax came into effect.  The Coke tax applies to all soft drinks, fruit drinks and any other drink containing added sugar and was voted under Francois Fillon. The government is hoping to raise 120€ million Euros for the SECU with it.  Which makes one wonder what the real goal is–raise money or fight obesity!  I suppose my sarcasm shows what I think.  I have to admit that I’m rather curious to see the first soda tax statistics come in next month.  Will soda consumption have gone down?  How much money was raised?  More or less than planned?  (And how do you budget based on people’s “bad” habits?)  How do you legislate healthy eating habits? I think it takes more than a stick approach.  Where’s the carrot?  Of course, the carrot costs more than the stick but then isn’t that a big part of the problem?

The Coke tax hasn’t had a huge impact on us.  I don’t buy soda.  I thought it was expensive enough before the new tax and we tend to drink water and tea anyway.  As for the palm oil, I’m one of those people who actually reads labels and I make most of the cakes and cookies we eat.

Cost does play a role in what I buy.  We’ve chosen to buy our fruit and vegetables at the market because, while they’re more expensive, the quality is unmatched.  We rarely buy wine–that budget got slashed to allow us to buy better meat, poultry and fish.  We eat less meat than before due to the cost and our desire to buy good meat.  We make most of our food from scratch.  As I mentioned above, we don’t buy cookies, candy and junk food (but I do bake a lot).  None of this, however, came about because of another government tax.

Would a tax make me change my shopping habits if I didn’t look at labels?  To be honest, I doubt it unless it was a prohibitively expensive one.  The day, France tries to tax butter and cheese though I’ll be in for a real problem.  Or even eggs for that matter; the eggs/cholesterol debate has been going on for years.  Which presents another issue–good fat versus bad fat, quantity and moderation….and good luck legislating that!

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