'Fat tax' debate

Tax testers out more than $500 in non-scientific experiment

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SAN FRANCISCO, Cali. - It seems we're getting creamed in the fight against obesity. It's a factor in close to three million deaths each year in the U.S. So, is it time to tackle our weight problem with a tax?

We're bombarded by fast food, sugary foods, and just plain bad for you foods.

To get control of this weighty issue, governments want more control of your cash.

"Who do you want in your kitchen? The federal government, who will take your wallet and your freedom, or the food industry, who has already taken your wallet, your freedom, and your health," said Dr. Robert Lustig, M.D., Professor of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of California in San Francisco.

The fat tax, aka, the Twinkie tax, is a hard sell, charging consumers more for foods high in calories, fat, and sugar, and low in nutrition.

Denmark implemented a first of its kind fat tax. It was highly criticized and was repealed after just one year.

"The Denmark taxes fats equally, and that doesn't make any sense," Dr. Lustig explained.

We wanted to see if something similar would work here. We put people to the fat tax test, during a non-scientific 30 day experiment, we charged a buck each time any of them ate food on our list.

"I go out to lunch probably four days a week," said fat tax tester, Susan Bekaert

Bekaert is like most Americans.

After 30 days, the harsh reality of what she eats, too many chips, too much soda! She downed at least 20 of these in 30 days.

"Absolutely it surprises me," said Bekaert.

Liefke Cox and Richard Myers are raising a growing boy! Peanut butter and processed meats make a quick meal, loaded with sugar and fat.

"When does a personal responsibility issue graduate up to become a public health crisis? At a certain point, government has to get involved," Lustig explained.

A study in the British Medical Journal found that fat taxes would have to increase the price of unhealthy foods by 20-percent, to cut consumption enough to reduce obesity.

Jordan Hylton found out the cost of a poor diet the hard way.

With help from her little sister; they counted up just how much a tax would cost her family.

It wasn't the cost that worried their mother; it was not knowing exactly what she was feeding her girls.

"And that's what's frustrating! Like, I don't want to spend three hours in a grocery store reading labels. Like, I don't want to have to study nutrition, to know, what, you know, foods we should eat," Courtney Hylton (Concerned Mother), told Ivanhoe.

In all, our participants paid $550 to the fat tax, in one month.

"And that's a lot of money wasted," said Courtney Hylton.

But do they really think the extra cost would make people eat healthier?

"I haven't seen any better alternatives," said Bekaert.

"I really think that people are going to do what they want to do regardless of the fat tax," said fat tax tester, Richard Meyers.

Hungary has a 50-cent tax on fatty foods, soda, and alcohol. France is debating the Nutella tax, a hit on the chocolate spread made with palm oil. While New York City's ban on sodas larger than 16-ounces was stopped by a judge, the city did successfully ban trans fats several years ago. A study finds, on average, Trans fat in people's fast food meals have dropped from three grams, to half a gram, because of the ban.

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