Let Them Eat Cake . . . And Pay Taxes: France Government Proposes “Nutella” Tax

If Arnhem was the “bridge too far” for General Montgomery, Nutella may be a tax too far for President François Hollande. I have been admittedly critical of the massive tax increase by the Hollande government on the top earners in France. I just do not believe it makes economic sense. However, the latest tax is not simply designed to acquire more revenue but to fight the fat in France — part of a trend inside and outside the United States. The French Senate tripled the tax on palm and some other vegetable oils — a move that will significantly raise the cost of such French favorites like Nutella.


Nutella itself has defied the move and said that it would not change its recipe. Most French would sooner change Versailles into a duplex than change Nutella.

I strongly oppose these fat taxes and measures like the large soda ban in New York. We clearly do need to fight obesity in society. However, individuals should not be denied choice or penalized financially for not yielding to the demands of their government about what they eat or cook.

The appearance of a fat tax in France is particularly bizarre. Paris rests on a bedrock of marzipan and spun sugar. This is like the Italian tripling a pasta tax. Paris is one of the great food centers of the world and perhaps the greatest in history. Indeed, we have a LuLu poster in our kitchen from one of our fat-saturated trips to France. Had Marie Antoinette known that this was coming, she would have rushed to the guillotine at the Place de la Révolution.

Source: Washington Post

41 thoughts on “Let Them Eat Cake . . . And Pay Taxes: France Government Proposes “Nutella” Tax”

  1. Gene:

    Hah, exactly.

    I wonder if the women can deduct depletion as petroleum companies do.

  2. Darren,

    The problem with that idea is you’d have people literally fighting over the jobs to put the tax registration stickers on. 😉

  3. @Idealist: What makes those forests “ours”?

    How did we take possession of them?

    If we want to protect those forests, we should BUY those forests, because they do not belong to us, they belong to the citizens of those countries. Those citizens are doing precisely what “we” did in America and in Europe, they are cutting down forests for financial gain. Ireland used to be covered by forest; you know, and “we” clear cut it for farming.

    I think it is disingenuous of us to keep the wealth and power we generated by cutting down our own forests and tell others they cannot do the same. If cutting down our forests was wrong, we should take our ill-gotten inflation-adjusted wealth from that and use it to create an alternative industry for others so they do not have to cut down their forest. Either that, or we should take those gains and use them to undo the environmental damage WE did by replanting the forests we destroyed.

    Otherwise, we are just hypocrites; because obviously short-sighted profit interest was not a problem when WE were doing it and we have no intent of ever paying the price for that, but those other jokers better find another way. It is “Do as we say, not as we did.”

  4. Thanks to SwM, JCT, Zari, etc for the facts.

    Indonesia, Borneo, New Guinea, etc and the Amazon are our last untrampled tropical rainforests. As such they are providing and will hopefuly continue to provide necessary organic compounds with biological effects on humans, now and after further research.

    The palm oil industry is a very large motivation to destruction of the rainforest, as mentioned.

    The health efffects of saturated fats was also mentioned.

    Now as TonyC said it is your privilege to destroy your own health. But certainly he agrees that destruction of our common resource must be prevented due to shortsighted profit interests.

    And speaking of labeling: You saw that the Calif. amendment to require labeling of GMO products failed.

  5. @Swarthmore: As far as banning cigarettes: No. I do not smoke (anything), I almost never drink alcohol in any form, I take no mind-altering drugs. But I do not believe it is the job of government to decide upon our health or prevent people from getting high, stoned or drugged, even to the point of fatality. So I agree on banning smoking in public places just like I would agree to a ban for other people injecting me with heroin or slipping alcohol into my food without my knowledge. But I do not agree to ban tobacco, pot, alcohol, heroin, crack, Ecstasy, meth, speed or any other drug that can be used by adults in privacy for their own entertainment.

    Again, I have never used any illegal drug, and do not want to use any. I am opposed on principle, it is not the government’s job to protect me from my own decisions, and I think our government has long overstepped its bounds in trying to become our moral leaders. I would neither ban nor tax cigarettes any differently than any other item. I would prevent them from being sold (or marketed) to minors. I have no problem with the government performing research on the health effects of cigarettes and reporting that to the public; I think that is a valuable service for any food or product (such as transfat or high-fructose corn syrup) that we have reason to believe has an unusual impact upon health.

  6. @Swarthmore: I am against both the carbon tax and the cigarette tax. That does not mean I am against controlling carbon emissions or pro-smoking.

    I am against all “discouragement” taxes because I am against the government favoring the rich over the poor; and often at the expense of the poor if the rich can pass on the added costs to the poor. I find that an inherently unfair action by a government I want to treat all people equally, rich and poor.

    I am also against the implicit statement that some harmful activities are okay if your pockets are deep enough; I find that abhorrent, like selling the right to cause a few cancers and destroy a few lives. I do not care if it “works” or not, many things “work” and not all are fair. Criminals engage in crime because it “works,” Sexual slavery in the USA is only there because it “works.”

    Pollution literally kills people; allowing industry to engage in a fatal activity for a price is fundamentally immoral. If we want to control carbon emissions the solution is quite simple, set an achievable limit, a time period to get there, and then start putting people in jail for exceeding it, or trying to circumvent it by relocating overseas or buying from overseas. Pass a law that applies to everyone, not a price tag for getting away with murder.

  7. Today, Nutella® is the number one spread in Europe. In Germany, Nutella is a favorite breakfast spread and in both Italy and France it is a popular after-school snack. Worldwide, it outsells all peanut butter brands combined. Nearly three generations of Europeans have grown up eating Nutella, which was created in the 1940’s by Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker and founder of the Ferrero Company. If you think of the creamy chocolate inside a FerreroRocher candy, that’s a “lighter” version of Nutella.

    A year ago this month, a German court ordered Italian chocolate manufacturer, Ferrero, to change the labels on its popular chocolate product Nutella which indicate that it’s healthier than it actually is. The product’s nutritional value labels indicate the amount of fat and sugar in a 15-gram serving. However, the amount of vitamins and minerals said to be contained in the spread corresponds to a 100-gram serving. That’s a quarter of a jar. So, in order to get those important nutrients, you’ll have to also consume almost half of your daily fat intake.

    According to reports in Die Welt, Frankfurt’s Court of Appeals ordered the company to change its labels, threatening a fine of €250,000 ($338,000) for every future violation. Ferrero will appeal the decision, saying there is nothing wrong with its current labels, but it will also change Nutella’s packaging in the meantime. (http://www.businessinsider.com/nutella-healthy-germany-2011-11#ixzz2CJ8Lv3AI)

  8. According to a recent study, How Obesity Threatens America’s Future, by 2030, “obesity rates for adults could reach or exceed 44 percent in every state and exceed 60 percent in 13 states.” This will translate into a tenfold increase in cases of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease and arthritis by 2020, and that will double again by 2030. Total cost? According to a 2012 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, “The projected increase in obesity is estimated to cost the United States $500 billion in health spending between now and 2030.”

    But lets not do anything about this, it’ll correct itself, its not my problem, it won’t affect me.

  9. @Swarthmore: If the French people believe the use of palm oil is wrong because of the harm it does others, they should ban the use of palm oil, period.

    I see no logical path from “It is wrong!” to “But not if you pay me enough money, then it is okay.”

    The government has no business “discouraging” acts by fining or taxation, such fines and taxes are inherently discriminatory based on wealth. Either something is wrong enough to be outlawed, or it is not, being allowed to pay a fee to engage in otherwise wrong behavior puts the law up for sale.

    The punishments meted out by government can be scaled to the severity of crimes, but that punishment should never be measured in dollars because that makes them inherently unfair.

  10. @Frankly: I do not think that is moral superiority … just smart use of resources.

    Why is that the government’s job?

    I will repeat, the government’s job is like that of a bodyguard. The bodyguard of a celebrity singer does not manage the career of the singer, pick their songs, direct their performance or tell them when to exercise or what to eat or to go to bed or stop drinking because they have a performance tomorrow.

    The bodyguard is not in charge. The bodyguard has a gun and is trained in the art of combat, but that does not put them in charge. The bodyguard is expected to risk and lose their life to protect their client, but that does not put them in charge or make them morally superior. Neither their superior fighting ability or the potential sacrifice of putting themselves in harm’s way justifies putting themselves in charge of their client.

    The government does not own us, we are not a resource for them to manage, we are their employer. Like the celebrity singer, if we want to get drunk and screw up our performance the next day, that is our decision, not the bodyguard’s decision. If we want to bake and eat butter cookies all day, that is not any of the bodyguard’s business either.

    It is not the government’s job to optimize our time, life span, or use of our resources, it is not their job to maximize our “progress” or our “efficiency” or our “productivity” by their own definitions of those words. They are servants, not owners or managers. It is our right to pursue happiness as we see fit, as long as we pay our fair share of expenses and do not harm others.

  11. Blouise, Much of this has to do with the Indonesian palm oil industry and its destructive practices.

  12. “The proposed tax, which will be voted on next week, would translate to a 6 euro cent hike per kilo of Nutella, or 30 euro cents on giant 5 kg pots of Nutella most commonly used in restaurants and creperies across France.

    Palm oil is high in saturated fats which can lead to heart disease.

    In addition to being a health risk, the industrial use of palm oil has led to widespread deforestation in Borneo, Sumatra and Indonesia, displacing and killing endangered populations of orangutans.

    The proposed tax hike in France is the latest setback for the maker of the chocolate spread,Ferrero, which has also had to fork over millions of dollars in a class-action lawsuit for false advertising in the US where it was pitched as a nutritious breakfast food.

    A two-tablespoon serving of Nutella contains 200 calories, 11 grams of fat — 3.5 of which are saturated — and 21 grams of sugar.

    A typical chocolate and nut candy bar, meanwhile, has 250 to 300 calories and 12 to 16 grams of fat.” New York Daily News

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