The coalition agreement of the new cabinet states that attention will be paid to prevention and a healthy lifestyle from an early age. The tax on sugary drinks will be increased and binding agreements will be made with the industry on healthier foods. The cabinet will also consider how a sugar tax can be introduced in the long term and the VAT on fruit and vegetables can be reduced to 0%.
These are some of the measures that nutrition and health experts have recommended in the Food-EPI study we conducted into government policy with regard to the food environment . The cabinet also promises to provide children with extra protection against inappropriate ‘online’ advertising and children’s marketing. Let’s hope this also includes the government banning the advertising of unhealthy food – another important recommendation from our study on the prevention of diet-related chronic diseases.
A major health problem in the Netherlands and the rest of the world; 15% of deaths in Western Europe and 22% of deaths worldwide can be attributed to an unhealthy diet
Good first step
Such measures are a good first step, because with the VVD as the largest party, we have seen in recent years that the responsibility for a healthy lifestyle has often been placed with the individual. D66, ChristenUnie and CDA have apparently negotiated well, given the fact that now a tax on sugary drinks (mentioned in election programs of D66 and ChristenUnie) and lowering prices on fruit and vegetables (for example through a VAT reduction – ChristenUnie and CDA) entered into the coalition agreement. We are waiting to see whether there will also be a ban on child marketing for unhealthy foods (as proposed by ChristenUnie and CDA) in order to protect children against ‘inappropriate’ (online) advertisements. The VVD had proposed in its election program that foods should be made healthier by making agreements with food producers; these are therefore included as ‘binding’ agreements.
These preventive measures are a step in the right direction towards a healthy food environment. This is important, because in the current Dutch food environment, the Dutch are tempted day in and day out to make unhealthy choices. For example, our recent research showed that 80% of the offer and promotions of supermarkets and 91% of the offer of catering chains fall outside the Wheel of Five. Of the products with child marketing (for example with a cartoon character on the packaging, or another message aimed at children) even 97% fall outside the Wheel of Five. This has a strong influence on our food purchases and leads to an unhealthy diet, which is an important risk factor for the development of overweight, obesity and related chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A major health problem in the Netherlands and the rest of the world; 15% of deaths in Western Europe and 22% of deaths worldwide can be attributed to an unhealthy diet.
We hope that this is the start of the road to a food environment that makes the healthy choice the easier choice and thus contributes to a healthier future for all people in the Netherlands.
Vulnerable to diet-related chronic diseases
The corona pandemic clearly reveals how vulnerable Dutch society is as a result of food-related chronic diseases. People with obesity and diet-related chronic diseases are at increased risk of complications, ICU admission and death from Covid-19. The insight in the fight against Covid-19 is that the virus is not an individual but a collective problem.
In order to maintain curative care, we have been held back and forth by the collective corona measures for almost two years. Plans for a healthy food environment are a step towards a collective approach to the prevention of chronic diseases. It is known that structural measures aimed at the entire population (e.g. a sugar tax) are more effective in preventing chronic diseases at population level than measures aimed at improving individual behavior (e.g. information campaigns or lifestyle advice to people at increased risk for chronic diseases ). The introduction of these measures is an important step to achieve health gains and reduce healthcare costs at population level.
We therefore look forward to the elaboration of the promises in the coalition agreement and the precise implementation of the National Prevention Agreement, for which €60 million per year has been set aside in the coming period. We hope that this is the start of the road to a food environment that makes the healthy choice the easier choice and thus contributes to a healthier future for all people in the Netherlands. A government that will fulfill its constitutional task to promote public health even better1.
1. Article 22, Health, Constitution
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Will the Netherlands make healthy eating easier? – Yes, the new coalition agreement means hope for a healthier food environment – Foodlog