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Press release

Ethiopia Introduces New Tax to Prevent Noncommunicable Diseases and Save Lives

New York, USA - March 9, 2020

Resolve to Save Lives commends the Ethiopian Parliaments’ action to reduce intake of trans fat, saturated fat, and sugar

Dietary risk factors are a leading driver of noncommunicable diseases, which are estimated to account for nearly half of all deaths in Ethiopia. Late last month, the Ethiopian Parliament passed an excise tax on food products proven to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, including margarines, fats and oils with high levels of saturated fats or trans fats, and sugar sweetened beverages. Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, applauds the Government of Ethiopia for its action to prevent noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by promoting healthier diets.

Under the new law, margarine with more than 40% saturated fat, or more than 0.5% trans fat, will be subject to a 50% tax. Fats and oils with more than 40% saturated fat, more than 0.5% trans fat, or any partially hydrogenated fats will be taxed 40%, as will oils whose saturated and trans fat content is not labelled. Sweetened beverages will be subject to a 25% tax—one of the highest in the world. The law also increases taxes on alcohol and tobacco.

“Ethiopia’s new tax is an important step forward for heart health” said Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives. “Taxes are a key component of a comprehensive NCD prevention strategy—they can guide consumers to healthier choices and encourage the food industry to reformulate products to offer healthier options. We hope that Ethiopia’s swift action will encourage other countries to take similar measures to prevent disease and save lives.”

Comprehensive NCD prevention strategies combine fiscal policies, including taxation, with product regulation, marketing restrictions, public education, labelling requirements, procurement rules and health system strengthening.

Additional background:

Artificial trans fat is a man-made compound still used in some countries as a substitute for butter or lard in fried food, deep fried food, baked goods, and spreads. It has been estimated to cause more than 500,000 deaths per year, but it can be eliminated and replaced with healthier alternatives without changing the taste or cost of food. WHO has called for global elimination of artificial trans fat by 2023 with the REPLACE initiative. As of late 2019, trans fat regu­lations protected more than 2.4 bil­lion people in 30 countries (31% of the world’s population).

Excess sugar consumption has been linked to diabetes, liver and kidney damage, heart disease, and some cancers. Taxing sugar sweetened beverages has been shown to reduce consumption of sugar and has been adopted by more than 50 countries and cities worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends taxes of at least 20% on sugary drinks.In addition to these Resolve to Save Lives efforts, Vital Strategies is engaged in obesity prevention work in Barbados, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica and South Africa to reduce consumption of sugary drinks and junk food and promote healthy food policies.

Media Contact:

Erin Sykes, Resolve to Save Lives: esykes@resolvetosavelives.org; +1.646.612.0001
Christina Honeysett, Vital Strategies: choneysett@vitalstrategies.org; +1.914.424.3356

About Resolve to Save Lives

Resolve to Save Lives is a five-year, $225 million campaign funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gates Philanthropy Partners, which is funded with support from the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation. It is led by Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and housed at Vital Strategies.

Resolve to Save Lives aims to save 100 million lives by:

To find out more visit: https://www.resolvetosavelives.org or Twitter @ResolveTSL

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our programs reach into 73 countries and help prevent death and illness from noncommunicable disease, reduce harm caused by environmental factors, and support cities as engines for public health. We consult with governments on issues including advocating for taxation on unhealthy commodities like sugary drinks and junk food, promoting smoke-free laws, improving indoor and outdoor air quality, and strengthening road safety. These are protections that can add up to millions of lives saved. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change.

To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.