Health dept. supports sin tax on salty food

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Imposing a tax on salty food would help prevent health risks among the public, the health chief said. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 30) — Imposing a tax on salty food would help prevent health risks among the public, the health chief said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said excessive salt consumption remains a public health concern as it leads to hypertension, kidney failure and other complications.

These risks could be minimized by imposing a tax similar to that imposed on sugary drinks, Duque said.

“The same strategy might work also for excessive consumption of salt, we did the same thing for taxing sugars and beverages so it might be the most effective way to go,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law imposes a ₱6 per liter tax on beverages using caloric and non-caloric sweeteners, and ₱12 per liter for beverages using high fructose corn syrup.

Duque said there should be a “low salt to no salt” policy for salt content on products.

He explained that while iodine from iodized salt contributes to brain development, salt itself has adverse effects.

“Eating salty food is just too much, and it's already proving to be of negative consequence and impacting on the health of our people. That's really a cause for concern,” the Health chief said.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said regulations may include all food if necessary such as dried fish or daing.

"(Yes) kung umabot tayo doon (if we need to regulate salt intake) but I am not saying that is where we are going. It is really just a broad stroke idea that the Secretary mentioned but we don’t have any guidelines on that yet," Domingo said in a media briefing.

Public health expert Dr. Tony Leachon said Filipinos consume salt about four to five times more grams than what is required.

"Dapat isang tao two grams lang per day. Tayo po ang konsumo ay 11 to 15 grams per day so tayo four to five times ang Filipino," he said.

[Translation: A person should only take two grams (of salt) per day. We consumer about 11 to 15 grams per day so Filipinos consume four to five time more.]

Other sin taxes under the TRAIN Law include ₱35 per cigarette pack. President Rodrigo Duterte signed a new law that would increase this to ₱45 by 2020 up to ₱65 by 2023, while a tax of ₱10 per refill of vapor products less than 10 milliliters will also be levied on e-cigarettes.

Gains from sin taxes are expected to chalk up ₱62 billion to fund the universal health care program, which would expand the coverage of government health insurance to all Filipinos.