An unhealthy diet increases the risk of (chronic) diseases, such as kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and digestive diseases. Every year 13,000 people die as a result of unhealthy food. It is, after smoking, the most important preventable cause of death and healthy years of life lost.
In almost every shopping street or supermarket, much more unhealthy than healthy food is offered and sold. Fast food chains, snack bars and ice cream shops determine the streetscape. Healthy food is also often more expensive than unhealthy food. Our processed foods contain an unnecessary amount of sugar, salt and unhealthy fat, which means that we consume far too many of these substances on a daily basis. All of this makes it impossible to make an informed choice about eating healthy.
Children’s marketing restricted
The Kidney Foundation is pleased that the government is now also aware of the urgency of putting an end to child marketing in the food sector. It is a decisive step towards a healthy food environment. This also applies to the intention to give municipalities the opportunity to ban fast food providers from certain locations.
A healthy food supply is especially important in environments where many children attend, such as schools. Even in supermarkets, no less than 80 percent of the food items on the shelves do not fall within the Five Wheel of Five, according to research by Amsterdam UMC, which was supported by Hartstichting and ZonMw.
Healthy supply of supermarket sharply up
In the national prevention agreement, supermarkets promise to encourage their customers to buy products from Femhjulet. But a little comes out of it. There is therefore a need for binding agreements with all supermarkets on an annual increase in the proportion of healthy food compared to unhealthy food. According to the Hartstichting, school breakfasts and lunches paid for by the public must also comply with the Five Wheel.
Legal requirements composition of products
The cabinet also wants legal requirements for the maximum amounts of sugar, salt or saturated fat for certain products. This measure prohibits very unhealthy products and forces the manufacturer to improve the composition.
The Alliance welcomes this important milestone. Especially after years of self-regulation, little progress has been made in the healthier composition of processed foods. Responsible State Secretary for Public Health Van Ooijen first wants to examine this measure in more detail, but as far as health insurance funds are concerned, this measure will be introduced as soon as possible.
No tax on unprocessed fruit and vegetables
Making healthy food cheaper – especially in these times of huge price increases – will help families eat healthier. But the government’s decision to no longer charge taxes on fruit and vegetables will not be implemented until 2024. The cabinet will first examine which products exactly fall under fruit and vegetables. Only then can the VAT rate for fruit and vegetables be lowered to zero percent.
The Nutrition for the Healthy Generation Alliance advocates an intermediate step: Set the VAT to zero percent for all unprocessed fruit and vegetables as soon as possible, no later than mid-2023, based on the classification of the Five Wheel.
Smart sugar tax
In addition, quickly introduce a ‘smart sugar tax’: a progressive tax on sugary drinks. Manufacturers are taxed more the more sugar they put in their soft drinks. This measure has already proven to help in other countries: soft drink manufacturers added less sugar to half of their soft drinks. Young people in particular – heavy consumers of sugary drinks – enjoy it.
Government with responsibility for public health
1 in 6 children are obese, 1 in 2 adults are obese. The unhealthy food supply, the unhealthy trends in our consumption and the increasing risk of (chronic) diseases pose a serious threat to public health. The House of Representatives debates lifestyle prevention today.
In the coalition agreement, the coalition parties have expressed the ambition that a healthy generation will grow up in 2040. Healthy food is a decisive factor in this, which deserves everyone’s attention. The government has a constitutional responsibility to take measures that promote public health.