“Fat Tax”: Is It True That Fullness Is Banned In Japan And New Zealand

“In Japan, it is illegal to have a waist of more than 90 centimeters for men and 80 centimeters for women,” said Anna Popova, head of Rospotrebnadzor, in a fresh interview , discussing how her department is studying foreign experience in combating obesity among the population. This clause, perhaps unintentional, once again says that the state does not abandon its attempts to claim the bodies of its citizens (of course, for their own benefit), and serves as a good example of how fat-phobic rhetoric sneaks into the discussion about the need to monitor their health. …   

So what does foreign experience say? The so-called “Metabo Law”, which Popova refers to, adopted in 2008, has given rise to many online legends that “it is forbidden to be fat in Japan.” Employees of Japanese enterprises and government agencies in the age group from 40 to 75 years old are indeed obliged to undergo a medical examination every year, during which they also measure their waist. And if that exceeds the approved norm, employees can be prescribed, for example, courses of physical exercise. But of course, no one in Japan would think of outlawing such people. 

The very name of the decree (“metabo”, a polite euphemism for overweight, was invented to remove the negative connotations associated with the diagnosis of “obesity”) emphasizes that Japanese doctors were not going to shame their compatriots for gaining weight. Japanese employers are primarily responsible for the health of their employees, who must make sure that their employees eat properly and do not lead an overly sedentary lifestyle. And in a country that has made improving the health of its citizens one of its priorities (so much so that it is criticized as overprotective ), this concern is complex: as you might guess, the annual medical examination is not limited to just measuring the waist. 

Popova also cites New Zealand as an example, where “upon obtaining citizenship, you must present a certificate stating that the body mass index does not exceed 35”. It is not entirely clear how this experience can help Rospotrebnadzor, but it must be clarified that this example is half-hearted. New Zealand really does not want to issue citizenship to people who have serious health problems – including those related to obesity – so that they do not have to be treated at their own expense (in the official recommendations this is phrased more streamlined : “make sure that people enter New Zealand Zealand will not lead to an excessive financial burden on the health care system ”). But body mass index is just one of the possible red flags that migration services might look out for.   

It is impossible to dehumanize completeness as something “illegal” and thereby aggravate the psychological state of people who are already subject to constant pressure

And if we talk about international experience, then it is worth at least mentioning the “fat tax” introduced in Denmark in 2011 and affecting food products containing more than 2.3 % saturated fat. A year later, the tax was canceled as ineffective: with its main task – to improve the diet of the Danes (they simply began to travel more often for food to neighboring Sweden and Germany) – it did not cope and ultimately gave little, except for a headache for the local food industry and retail chains. Hopefully, Rospotrebnadzor will also take this result into account.   

This does not mean that the state should not pay attention to the problem of obesity , the scale of which is comparable to that of a pandemic. Its discussion can and should be approached from different positions – including from the position of product quality control, which is under the jurisdiction of Rospodrebnazdor. And in this sense, Anna Popova, speaking about monitoring nutrition, starting with general education schools, expresses completely justified concern.  

But you shouldn’t start this conversation with a measuring tape. It is impossible to dehumanize completeness as something “illegal” and thereby aggravate the psychological state of people who are already subject to constant pressure due to their weight. And it is all the more strange to do this, referring to someone else’s experience, which is based on just love for people, and not veiled fat shaming. This should be obvious to the organizers of any anti-obesity campaign if they want the campaign to be in any way successful.

local_offerevent_note May 13, 2021

account_box mydietblog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *