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article imageFrench senator proposes palm oil ‘fat tax’ to reduce health risks

By Robert Myles     Nov 8, 2012 in Food
Hard on the heels of tax proposals which would see a 5 €cent rise on a glass of beer at street-side bars and cafés, France’s socialist government is proposing a 300% tax hike on palm oil, long considered a factor in obesity.
Following swiftly on French Socialist government proposals which would see the price of a 25cl glass of beer — a demi — as it is known in France increase substantially from next January, a new nutrition tax is planned aimed at steering the French to more healthy eating.
As part of a raft of new taxation measures contained in France’s 2013 Social Security Bill, currently making its way through the French parliament, the Social Affairs Committee of the French Senate adopted an amendment yesterday, November 7 which would see the tax on palm oil, an ingredient in many foodstuffs, increased by 300%, reports French newspaper Le Figaro.
If adopted, the increase in palm oil tax could see the price of popular products like Nutella chocolate and nut spread increase by 6 €cents or more per kilogram.
In support of the amendment to the Social Security Bill, Yves Daudigny, a socialist senator for Aisne department and reporter to the French Senate Committee on Social Affairs said, "This tax is aimed at manufacturers, not consumers, and aims to reduce their use of palm oil in food products."
The perceived dangers of the increased use of palm oil in foodstuffs were highlighted in an earlier report in Le Figaro in 2011. Palm oil is solid at room temperature and has the advantage of being a cheap alternative to hydrogenated oils in extending the shelf life of many processed foods such as biscuits and pastries.
Palm oil is heavy in transfats and its greater use means higher cholesterol levels in the bloodstream and, with that, a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. According to Jean-Michel Chardigny, a researcher at the Department of Human Nutrition at France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research (Institut national de la recherche agronomique), palm oil provides no nutritional benefits but contains saturated fats and a high proportion (60%) of palmitic acid. Palmitic acid, also known as hexadecanoic acid, is the most common fatty acid found in animals, plants and micro-organisms. This particular fat is atherogenic, meaning that it promotes fatty deposits inside blood vessels and accelerates the degeneration of their inner walls. Along with lauric acid and myristic acid, palmitic acid is reckoned to be one of the three worst saturated fats injurious to human health.
This new nutritional tax, the first of its kind in France, aims to bring the taxation of palm oil into line with the tax which applies to olive oil. Currently olive oil in France is taxed at twice the rate of palm oil, reports The Local. The new measure is calculated to bring in an extra €40 million in French government tax receipts and is aimed at encouraging food producers to find alternatives to palm oil which may be less harmful to health.
In addition to palm oil, the new French ‘fat tax’ would apply to coconut oil, palm kernel oil and imported food products in proportion to the use they make of the newly taxed food oils. The proposal is expected to be further considered by the French Senate in plenary session next week.
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