BANGKOK — A proposed tax hike on salty processed food will soon be introduced in an effort to curb salt consumption and promote healthier diets, the Excise Department said Wednesday.

Department director Patchara Anuntasilpa said the agency is working with the Ministry of Public Health to finalize details of the proposed tax, which will be submitted to the Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana for approval by the end of this year.

“The salt tax has never been imposed before in Thailand, but it has already been levied in many developed countries,” Patchara said. “The department is studying the effects of salt intake on health to determine should the tax be collected.”

He said the exact tax rate is to be announced and the “salt tax” will be levied only on processed foods such as frozen food, canned food, instant noodles, and instant food products.

However, high-sodium seasonings, condiments, and snacks will not be affected by the new tax.

The proposal will follow the same model as a tax on sugary drinks, which generated more than 2 billion baht a year for the government since it was implemented on Sept. 16, 2017. There will be a grace period of one to two years to allow manufacturers to adjust the salt content in their products.

This is not the first time the idea has been discussed. Last December, then-Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong opposed the plan, saying that the tax would produce adverse effects for consumers, despite it producing revenue.

According to the World Health Organization, excessive sodium consumption kills about 20,000 Thais every year. Thais consume an average of 10 grams of salt per day – twice the WHO recommended level of 5 grams.

High-sodium processed foods are often blamed for the rise of kidney and heart diseases in Thai people. Surasak Kantachuvesiri, chairman of the advocacy Thai Low Salt Network, said more than seven million Thais are suffering from chronic kidney disease.

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