'Fat tax' on junk food in Kerala

'Fat tax' on junk food in Kerala

'Fat tax' on junk food in Kerala

 Kerala, grappling with dangers of its rising culture of junk-food bingeing, could be looking at a first-of-its-kind initiative from the state government for answers.

The CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in the state has announced a 14.5% ‘fat tax’ on consumers of junk food served in branded restaurants.

Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac, presenting the state’s budget for 2016-17 on Friday, said burgers, pizzas, doughnuts, tacos, sandwiches, burger patty and pasta served at branded restaurants will come under the ‘fat tax’ ambit. “An additional revenue of Rs 10 crore is expected from the move,” Isaac said.

Kerala has been repeatedly cited for its high rates of child obesity and lifestyle-related ailments among children. The National Health Survey of 2015 puts the state second only to Punjab in child obesity rates.  The rise of fast-food chains in the state since the early 2000s has also corresponded with good-food movements calling for a thumbs-down to junk food but the initiatives have not made much headway.  The finance minister did not spell out details on how the state planned to implement the ‘fat tax’. A 5% tax on packaged wheat products has also been announced.

Populist welfare schemes, a renewed drive for mobilisation of resources and a package to beat the economic slowdown were the key points in the budget. The first budget of the new government under Pinarayi Vijayan envisages a 25% increase in tax revenues and incorporates a nine-point action plan to achieve it.

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