Fat Fight: Higher Tax Likely on Unhealthy Foods

The government is working on a roadmap to tackle increasing obesity in the population, and the measures may include higher tax on foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

Higher tax is one of the many options being considered including front-of-pack labelling and marketing and advertising of HFSS (high fat, salt sugar) foods, an official said.

At present, non-branded nankeens, bhujias, fruit and vegetable chips and snack foods are charged 5% GST. For branded and packaged item, the tax is 12%. On the contrary, sin goods like tobacco products face 28% GST to discourage their use.

Most of such products also carry statutory health warnings on the pack.

“A similar model could be replicated for snacks high in HFSS content,” the official said.

As per the National Family Health Survey 2019-20, the proportion of obese woman in India has gone up to 24% from 20.6% in 2015-16. Among men, 22.9% were overweight as per the survey, compared with 18.9% four years earlier. In states like Telangana, Kerala and Himachal Pradesh, nearly one-third of men and women (in the age group of 15-49 years) are overweight or obese.

The Niti Aayog, in collaboration with Institute of Economic Growth and Public Health Foundation of India, is reviewing the evidence available to understand the actions India can take, the Aayog said in its annual report 2021-22.

As per the World Health Organization, worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. As per the Indian Journal of Community Medicine, India alone has 135 million people as obese as of 2020.

The National Centre for Biotechnology Information estimates that by 2030, Indians would account for 27.8% of worldwide obesity S-ET

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