In a first for India, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Kerala government has imposed a “fat tax” of 14.5% on branded restaurants selling food like pizzas, burgers, tacos, doughnuts, sandwiches, pasta, burger patty and bread-filling.
The announcement was made by state Finance Minister Thomas Isaac on Friday while presenting the LDF government’s first budget.
Fast-food chains like McDonalds, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Subway, among others are likely to see the new tax imposed on them. Isaac said an estimate of Rs 10 crore would be raised by the new tax.
While the budget speech failed to mention the rationale behind the government’s move, a fat tax has been imposed by countries like Denmark and Hungary to fight obesity.
Two studies conducted among school children in Kerala point to climbing obesity rates. A 2010 study conducted by VMS Bellary found that among high school students in Thiruvananthapuram’s city corporation, 12% were overweight while 6.3% were obese.
Another 2012 study by the Geneva Global Health Platform found higher prevalence of obesity among children attending private school in villages in Alappuzha district over those going to government school.
The imposition of fat tax has been debated across the world. While some argue that it will help reduce obesity rates, some question the need to impose a tax on people, who are otherwise healthy, and occasionally choose to indulge on junk food.