Friday, March 26, 2010

Deutsche Welle: Little appetite in Romania for fast-food legislation

Many governments around the world are making an effort to reduce obesity rates and encourage healthy eating. But Romania's efforts to introduce a fast-food tax have not seen an encouraging start.

The Romanian Ministry of Health intended to impose a tax on fast-food and it was expected to have done so by now. Such a tax was meant to encourage healthy eating, but so far the plan has not panned out.

"Based on the declaration made by the government at the start of the year, the tax should have been in place by the middle of March," Tiberiu Fueriu, editor in chief of the trade publication Food and Bar Magazine, told Deutsche Welle.

The government ran into trouble when it realized that a lot of the products sold by Romanian fast-food stalls aren't really junk food at all. On the streets of Bucharest the cheap food of choice is the 'shaorma,' or kebab. According to Daniel Iorgoveanu, who owns a kebab stall in the city center, the kebabs he sells shouldn't be considered unhealthy just because they can be served quickly.

"All the food we serve is fresh, at least most of it," he said. According to him, the only ingredient they buy ready-made and that might contain preservatives is the mayonnaise.

"We're a fast-food place, that's what we call ourselves, but we sell fresh Romanian products. I don't see how we could be putting the consumer's health at risk."

Instead of directly taxing fast-food, the government's proposed law would create a list of all the products considered unhealthy - a task requiring the analysis of some 40,000 products, which could then be taxed.

A government scheme to raise funds?

Instead of an effort to get Romanians healthy, the industry is up in arms about what it sees as another stealth tax.

"The fact that you can go out onto the street and see that there's a line in front of a restaurant simply gives the impression that you can get some more money out of them," said Fueriu. "It's got nothing to do with a concern for good health."

"I think that unfortunately, Romania is first when it comes to bad things and last when it comes to sensible things," Fueriu concluded.

Author: Tom Wilson (hf)
Editor: Ben Knight

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