Calls for take-away food to be taxed at the highest rate of VAT
The calls were made following the most recent episode of RTÉ's This Week.
The Irish Heart Foundation has called for fast food to be hit with the highest rate of VAT to combat the growing obesity crisis.
This follows the news that nine young patients with obesity died on the waiting list for bariatric or weight loss surgery in Ireland in the past five years, with more than half of them developing a new obesity-related illness while on the list.
As it stands, take away food in Ireland benefits from a special 9% VAT rate introduced in 2011 as permitted by the EU. The reduced rate was designed to boost the Irish hospitality sector following the recession.
Responding to this, the Head of Advocacy at the Irish Heart Foundation, Chris Macey, said he believes that it makes no sense to tax sugary drinks as a health measure, without then also taxing unhealthy food.
"We would say that this rate should not just go back to 13.5% for hot takeaway food. It should be taxed at the highest rate," he said.
"Defibrillators that save people’s lives are taxed at the highest rate, yet we have a situation where hot takeaway food that is contributing to the biggest health crisis in the history of the State is taxed at a low rate."
In 2011, Hungary placed a 4% tax on packaged foods and drinks that contain high levels of sugar and salt in certain product categories, including soft drinks, sweets, salty snacks, condiments, and fruit jams.
In 2013, Mexico followed suit by passing an 8% tax on all "non-essential" foods such as snacks, sweets, nut-butters and cereal-based prepared products.
Junk food consumption fell in both countries, due to the increased price and educational campaigns about the tax.
The Sugar Tax was introduced to Ireland in May of this year with the aim of slowing down the obesity problem ravaging Ireland's children. It applies to drinks with a sugar content of five grams or more.
It's feared that, unless the Government doesn't take action, a third of Irish adults will be obese by the year 2025.