January 15, 2020
Diet is the biggest potential health risk, as reported by a recently published Finnish study. What’s the optimal solution to improve public health? According to the authors, somewhat unexpectedly, it’s to stop taxing fruits & veggies.
In the study, conducted by the Finnish Food Authority, Finnish institute for health and welfare, and University of Helsinki, the main food and diet-related factors contributing to the burden of disease in the Finnish society were investigated. Three very dominant factors were found, in their descending order of importance: too low fruit intake, excess salt intake, and suboptimal vegetable intake. The fourth most important factor, overconsumption of saturated fats, had far less impact than the top three, highlighting the importance of whole plant foods in promoting health. A similar pattern is likely to exist in most developed countries: the loss in healthy life years is caused more by poor diet rather than problems in hygiene, in contrast to the less developed countries.
Based on the results, a radical suggestion was made: the most effective way to decrease the disease burden and to improve public health was to remove the VAT from fruits and vegetables. Currently at 14% in Finland for all foods, the removal of this tax is estimated to save 5.8 million euros in yearly healthcare costs. However, the political willingness to abolish VAT from fruits and vegetables might be reduced by the slow pace at which the expected beneficial effects appear, taking several years, while the loss in the tax revenue becomes immediately evident. Some other ways to promote plant-based eating could be to focus government subsidies more on plant food production rather than dairy and meat, although such reform would probably face no less opposition.
Link to the original publication: http://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/handle/10024/161913