Minister of Health Accused of Prejudice Against Fat People

Ask Iceland Review - Soft Drinks

Iceland’s Association for Body Respect has accused Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir of encouraging prejudice against fat people in her discussion of the Directorate of Health’s new proposal for a 20% sugar tax on soft drinks and sweets, RÚV reports. The Association believes that an article penned by the Minister about the proposal in Morgunblaðið unnecessarily targeted fat people rather than acknowledging that excessive sugar consumption presents a health concern for people of all sizes.

The Directorate’s new action plan calls for imposing a 20% sugar tax on soft drinks and sweets, which it says is important for the country’s long term goals in public health. Ireland, France, Norway, and Mexico, are just a few of the countries which have taxed soft drinks and other sugary products mostly in an effort to reduce their consumption and improve public health. Iceland did previously implement a sugar tax of 5%, but it was later repealed.

“It has consistently been pointed out that Iceland has a high proportion of fat people and that the consumption of sugary products increases the likeliness of obesity and tooth decay and high consumption of sugary sodas and beverages can additionally increase the likeliness of type 2 diabetes,” Svandís wrote in her op-ed.

“…[W]e want to point out that the imposition of a sugar tax would bring about the improvement of the public health of all Icelanders, not just fat people,” read a statement published on the Association for Body Respect’s Facebook page. “Icelanders of all ages and of all genders, sizes, and shapes consume sugar. An excessive consumption of sugar is not just unhealthy for fat people.”

A sugar tax is the first item in the action plan that was laid out by the Directorate of Health’s working group to reduce the prevalence of obesity.

“Because of the high incidence of fat prejudice and discrimination on the basis of physique, the plan specifically states that ‘When introducing measures, there needs to be an emphasis on the fact that they simultaneously contribute to mental, physical, and social health and well-being,’ continues the Association’s Facebook post. Those implementing the measures were, however, encouraged to avoid increasing ‘…negative perceptions or attitudes in connection to physique.’”

“On the contrary,” reads the action plan, “it is important to promote respect for diverse builds in society, as poor body image and prejudice on the basis of physique can have a negative effect on health-related behavior, health, and well-being. It is, therefore, recommended that the government’s actions revolve around the promotion of healthy lifestyles within a broad social context, without a specific emphasis on obesity or body weight.”

The Association contends, however, that the Minister of Health “went against these recommendations in her discussion about the implementation of a sugar tax.”