Dems want to end tax break for junk food


Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced a bill Thursday that would end a tax subsidy for the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children.

"Our nation is facing a childhood obesity crisis that demands our urgent attention, and one effective way of combating this epidemic is to ensure that our children are not confronted by persistent advertising from soda, snack, and candy makers,” Harkin said. “Given the enormous public health costs associated with childhood obesity, our bill promotes healthier lifestyles."

The Stop Subsidizing Childhood Obesity Act would shift the money saved from eliminating the tax credit to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides fresh fruit or vegetable snacks to elementary school students in low-income schools.

Under the current tax code, companies can deduct marketing and advertising expenses from their income taxes. 

Harkin and Blumenthal's bill would amend the tax code to prohibit a deduction for advertising directed at children to promote the consumption of food and beverages of “poor nutritional quality.” The secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Institute of Medicine would define what food and brands are considered unhealthy.

"This measure makes taxpayers allies of health advocates and nutritious eating, rather than aiders and abettors of junk food,” Blumenthal said. “By eliminating the nonsensical tax loophole allowing companies to write off the cost of marketing junk food and sugary beverages to children, the Stop Subsidizing Childhood Obesity Act will encourage companies to put their creative talents toward promoting nutritious foods, and bring in revenue that will be put to good use — providing fresh fruits and vegetables for elementary school children.”

Harkin and Blumenthal said their bill could reduce childhood obesity by 7 percent.

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