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VRG Journal July 1993


The Fat Tax: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

by Jerome Marcus, M.D.

There is abundant information which suggests that the population of the United States would benefit from reduced fat consumption. Heart disease, cancer, and stroke, the three most common causes of death, can at least in part be linked to excessive fat in the diet. Coincident with this is a desire on the part of our Federal Government to increase tax revenues. Is it possible that financial incentives could be set up which would link these two seemingly unrelated facts so that society might benefit?

Tax credits or tax reductions are frequently given to encourage that things be done or consumed by individuals or industry. Increased taxation frequently reduces the probability that something is going to occur. Since the consumption of fat is something which is overdone, maybe it is time to consider taxation as a means of fat control.

The best available data suggests that 37% of the calories in the average adult American's diet comes from fat. American Heart Association guidelines place the maximum acceptable intake at 30%. The 30% figure seems to have been arrived at rather arbitrarily. The thinking was that people could reduce fat consumption to this level without undo pain. Unfortunately, this thinking has given people a false sense of security. In reality, fat consumption should probably be no more than 22 or 24% of calories for prevention. Authors from Pritikin to Ornish have demonstrated that fat consumption of perhaps 10% may lead to reversal of preexisting coronary artery disease. I have chosen 24% of the calories from fat as a compromise which may be consistent with prevention of coronary artery disease.

Perhaps a "fat tax" does make sense. How would it work? What would it do? The average woman consumes 1,640 total calories per day including about 67 grams of fat and the average man consumes 2,500 total calories including about 103 grams of fat. Reducing fats to 24% of calories would require fat reduction of 23 grams per day for women and 36 grams per day for men (Table 1).

Table 1

                                     FEMALE         MALE
Total average calories per day        1,640        2,500

37% of calories from fat (in grams)      67          103

24% of calories from fat (in grams)      44           67

Difference (in grams)                    23           36

Reducing fat consumption by this much would require some dietary changes, but nothing very painful. Butter or margarine in stick form typically has 11 grams of fat per Tablespoon. Reducing fats from 37% to24% of calories requires elimination of the equivalent of about two or three Tablespoons of margarine or butter per day for the average woman or man respectively. That is something that can be done. Many salad dressings contain eight or more grams of fat per Tablespoon. Many cheeseburgers served in fast food outlets have thirty or more grams of fat.

What should we do? Let's look at a fairly extreme model: suppose we put a tax of five cents on each gram of fat in a given food product. If people did nothing and the average American continued to consume 31,000 grams of fat per year, the typical person would pay $1,550 per year in fat taxes. This is an interesting number, because it represents approximately one half of the average cost of health care per person in the United States or approximately $390 billion for the entire population. With an extra $390 billion dollars "contributed" to our government our deficit problems would seemingly disappear.

However, if this wildest of sin taxes were instituted, we would hope to see other effects. That high-fat cheeseburger with 30 grams of fat would have a tax of $1.50. Look at Table 2 below to see what would happen to some common products in the supermarket.

Table 2

PRODUCT                             TOTAL    CURRENT       FAT       
                                   FAT(g)      PRICE       TAX      PRICE

Fleischmann's Margarine (16 oz.)      352      $0.99    $17.60     $18.59

Breyers Natural Vanilla, Chocolate,   128      $3.49     $6.40      $9.89
  and Strawberry ice cream
  (half gallon)

Breyers Light Vanilla, Chocolate,      64      $3.49     $3.20      $6.69
  and Strawberry ice cream
  (half gallon)

Dannon Blueberry Yogurt                 3      $0.75     $0.15      $0.90
  (8 oz.)

Dannon Blueberry Light Yogurt        none      $0.78      none      $0.78
  (8 oz.)

Wise Potato Chips (6 oz.)              60      $1.32     $3.00      $4.32

Snyder's Hard Pretzels (15.5 oz)     none      $1.98      none      $1.98

Fleischmann's margarine, which for all intents is pure fat, would increase in price by more than eighteen times. People would either stop buying butters, margarines, oils, and fats, or would use them very sparingly. Food manufacturers would have to search for lower fat alternatives. Breyers Light Ice cream would cost approximately one third less than their regular ice cream, but would still be a luxury item. Pretzels would be a far more economical snack food than fried high-fat potato chips.

Fat consumption would change dramatically because it would save money. Lower fat and fat-free foods would abound. Society would benefit. Once at the 24% fat level, people would be leaner, healthier, and more productive. Institution of this fat tax in conjunction with public education would cause dramatic changes to take place quickly. Is it possible that in this case increased taxation could lead to a better society?

Vegetarian Journal's Guide to Non-Dairy Frozen Desserts

by Reed Mangels, PhD, RD

One of life's pleasures on a sweltering summer day is sitting down with a friend (or alone), two spoons (or one), and a pint of something sweet, creamy, and cold. Ice cream? Not necessarily. So many frozen desserts come in non-dairy form that one could spend an entire summer sampling them all.

"But," you may protest, "I'm concerned about fat. Shouldn't I stay with non-fat frozen yogurt?" Not necessarily. Want non-dairy and low fat? You're still in luck. Many products are formulated to have little or no fat. Try one of Tofutti-Frutti's three flavors or Sweet Nothings' nine varieties. Then there are sorbets by Nouvelle Sorbet, Dole, and LeSorbet. All of these products contain less than a gram of fat per half cup. Of course if you're interested in higher fat you can find that too, although none of the non-dairy desserts we found even came close to the 24 grams of fat in Haagen Dazs Butter Pecan ice cream. None of the non-dairy frozen desserts contain cholesterol.

Generally, non-dairy frozen desserts come in two categories: soybean or tofu-based and sorbet-type (mainly frozen fruit/fruit juice). Soybean/tofu- based products we found are Dreamy Tofu, Ice Bean, Living Lightly, Tofutti, Tofutti Better Than Yogurt, and Tofutti Frutti. Living Lightly and Ice Bean use organic soybeans. Dole, LeSorbet, and Nouvelle Sorbet are based on fruit or fruit juice. Sweet Nothings is based on brown rice syrup and fruit juice concentrate while Rice Dream is based on brown rice.

Sweeteners may be an issue for some consumers. Vegans will want to know that Ice Bean contains honey. Nouvelle Sorbet is sweetened with fruit and fruit juice. Rice Dream contains fruit juice con-centrate; fruit juice concentrate and brown rice syrup are used in Living Lightly, Tofutti Frutti, and Sweet Nothings. Various combinations of sugar and corn syrup are used to sweeten the other products.

A general recommendation when choosing a non-dairy dessert is to select one which you like but be aware of its fat content. If you really eat only half a cup, any product with no more than 5 grams of fat per half cup could easily fit into a lowfat diet. If you prefer to eat a pint at a sitting, your best bet is to select a variety with 1 gram of fat or less per half cup. The table accompanying this article provides information on the calories and fat in many non-dairy frozen desserts. Here's to summer's delight!

Table: Non-dairy Frozen Desserts

Flavor                            Fat        Calories
                              (grams per   (per 1/2 cup)
                               1/2 cup)        
Apple Caramel Swirl, DT*           2          110
Apricot Sorbet, NS                 0           80
Apricot Mango, TF                  0          100
Blueberry, SN                      0          100
Cherry Vanilla, IB                 8          140
Lemon, RD                          5          130
Lemon Sorbet, LS                   0          100
Lemon Sorbet, NS                   0           80
Mandarin Orange Sorbet,D           0          110
Mango Raspberry, SN                0          100
Passion Fruit Sorbet,NS            0           80
Passion Fruit Orange Sorbet, LS    1           90
Passion Island Fruit, TY           1           97
Peach Mango, TY                    1          105
Peach Sorbet, D                    0          120
Pineapple Sorbet, D                0          120
Raspberry Sorbet, D                0          110
Raspberry Sorbet, LS               0           80
Raspberry Sorbet, NS               0           80
Raspberry, LL                      1          100
Raspberry, SN                      0          100
Strawberry Banana, TY              1          105
Strawberry Sorbet, D               0          110
Strawberry Sorbet, LS              0           90
Strawberry Sorbet, NS              0           80
Three Berry, TF                    0          100
Wildberry Supreme, T              12          210
Wildberry Swirl, DT                2          100

Honey Vanilla, IB                  7          120
Vanilla, LL                        1          110
Vanilla, RD                        5          130
Vanilla, SN                        0          100
Vanilla, T                        14          200
Vanilla Apple Orchard,TF           0          100

Black Tiger, SN                    0          100
Carob, RD                          5          140
Carob Almond, LL                   5          140
Carob Almond, RD                   5          140
Carob Chip, RD                     6          140
Carob Peppermint, LL               1          110
Carob Super Crunch, IB            10          170
Chocolate, DT                      2          100
Chocolate, SN                      0          100
Chocolate Almond, LL               5          140
Chocolate Cherry Chunk, IB        10          170
Chocolate Cookies Supreme,        13          230
Chocolate Fudge, TY                2          126
Chocolate Mandarin, SN             0          100
Chocolate Supreme, T              13          210
Cocoa Marble Fudge, RD             5          160
Cookies 'n' Dream, RD              7          150
Deep Chocolate Fudge, T           10          200
Espresso Fudge, SN                 0          100
Heavenly Hash, IB                 10          170
Mint Carob Chip, LL                3          130
Mint Chocolate Chip, IB           10          170
Mint Chocolate Swirl, DT           2          100
Peanut Butter Fudge, RD            6          160
Tiger Stripe, SN                   0          110
Toasted Almond Fudge, IB          10          160
Vanilla Fudge, RD                  5          160

Almond Espresso, IB               10          150
Almond Pecan, LL                   5          140
Better Pecan, T                   17          240
Coffee Marshmallow Swirl, TY       1          109
Espresso, LL                       1          100
Neapolitan, RD                     5          130
Peanut Butter Cup, LL              5          120
Peanut Butter Swirl, DT            7          140
Vanilla Almond Bark, T            14          230
Vanilla Swiss Almond, LL           4          130
Vanilla Swiss Almond, RD           6          140

For Comparison 
Ice cream, Haagen Dazs           16-24      270-310
Ice cream, regular, vanilla        7          134
Ice milk, vanilla                  3           92
Sherbet                            2          135
Frozen Yogurt                    2-6        0-120
Frozen Yogurt, non-fat             0           80

*D=Dole; DT=Dreamy Tofu, Giant Foods; IB=Ice Bean; LL=Living Lightly, Turtle Mountain, Inc.; LS=Gerard's LeSorbet; NS=Nouvelle Sorbet; RD=Rice Dream, Imagine Foods; SN=Sweet Nothings, Turtle Mountain, Inc.; T=Tofutti; TY=Tofutti Better Than Yogurt; TF=Tofutti Frutti (formerly Land of the Free).

About this document:

These articles were originally published in the July/August 1993 issue of the Vegetarian Journal, published by:

The Vegetarian Resource Group
P.O. Box 1463, Dept. IN
Baltimore, MD 21203
(410) 366-VEGE

The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on vegetarianism and the interrelated issues of health, nutrition, ecology, ethics, and world hunger. In addition to publishing the Vegetarian Journal, VRG produces and sells cookbooks, other books, pamphlets, and article reprints. For more information, send a stamped self-addressed envelope to the above address. Subscriptions to the Vegetarian Journal are $20 per year. All contributions above the $20 subscription are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law.

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