- Colombia introduced a progressive health tax on ultra-processed foods, becoming a global leader in this public health initiative.
- The "junk food law" imposes a gradual tax starting at 10%, rising to 15% in the next year, and reaching 20% by 2025.
- The tax targets foods high in salt and saturated fat, with exemptions for some traditional Colombian foods, aiming to address health issues linked to diet, including high rates of cardiovascular diseases.
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Colombia is leading the way in the fight against lifestyle diseases with its innovative "junk food law." This groundbreaking legislation imposes a health tax on ultra-processed foods, making Colombia one of the first countries worldwide to explicitly target this category.
After years of campaigning, the law has been enforced, signalling Colombia's commitment to improving public health. The tax aims to regulate the consumption of ultra-processed foods and sugary drinks, contributing to the battle against prevalent lifestyle diseases.
The tax is not fixed but follows a progressive trajectory. It starts with a 10% levy, which will rise to 15% in the coming year and further increase to 20% by 2025. This incremental approach is designed to influence consumer behaviour, making unhealthy food choices financially less attractive.
The law focuses on ultra-processed foods with high salt and saturated fat content. However, traditional Colombian foods, such as salchichón sausage, have been strategically excluded from the tax, reflecting a balance between health considerations and cultural culinary heritage. The "junk food law" aligns with Colombia's broader strategy of improving public awareness and health outcomes.
Colombia's health challenges, including high rates of cardiovascular diseases and obesity, are central to the necessity for such progressive measures. The average Colombian consumes a staggering 12g of salt daily, placing the country among the highest rates globally. To complement the tax, Colombia is also implementing mandatory health warnings on foods with high levels of unhealthy ingredients, such as sugar and saturated fat. This dual approach of combining taxation and information dissemination incentivises healthy choices. It also helps spread awareness so that consumers make better food choices.
While the "junk food law" is a commendable step toward a healthier Colombia, it has not been without its challenges. Critics argue that the law might exacerbate the country's struggle with inflation and disproportionately impact small shopkeepers. However, proponents emphasise the long-term benefits, viewing it as an essential investment in the nation's health.
Colombia's proactive stance is resonating globally, positioning Latin America at the forefront of innovative health policies. This landmark legislation serves as a beacon, inspiring other nations to consider comprehensive strategies to address the growing challenges of lifestyle diseases.
Date & time of posting: 16 November 2023, 12:01 PM IST
Posted by: Matter5 News Team
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