Some 80% of the products promoted in supermarkets do not contribute to a healthy diet, according to research carried out on behalf of the health ministry.
The researchers focused on six supermarket groups with 72% of the Dutch market and assessed what percentage of special offers met the government’s healthy eating guidelines, known as the Schijf van Vijf.
‘We looked at supermarket special offer leaflets and what is on the bargain and impulse buy shelves, as well as what is promoted on the likes of Instagram and at bus stops,’ Wageningen University lecturer Maartje Poelman told broadcaster NOS.
The researchers found that 79% of the food on special offer at supermarkets did not feature in the healthy eating guidelines. Soft drinks, sugar, sweets, sweet sauces and jams and alcoholic drinks accounted for the bulk of the bargains.
In 2018, the government set new targets for reducing obesity in alliance with the supermarket and food production sectors. Part of this, Poelman said, is encouraging consumers to make more healthy food choices.
‘The ratio of unhealthy to healthy food remains 80:20,’ Poelman said. ‘The government is encouraging healthy choices but this is not being facilitated… and you should see this reflected in the places where people actually make those decisions.’
Junior health minister Paul Blokhuis, who commissioned the report, said he is continuing to ‘work on the monitoring and evaluation plan, the communication strategy and the management organisation for the new approach’, which involves encouraging manufacturers to reduce salt, sugar and saturated fat in products.
However, he said, talks with the food retail association had shown that supermarkets are unwilling to make any agreements on food advertising.
It would be up to the next government to look into this, he said in a briefing to MPs.
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