Fast food companies like McDonald’s and KFC get millions of euros in investment from Dutch health insurance companies and pension funds, according to research by northern newspapers Dagblad van het Noorden and the Leeuwarder Courant.
The news comes at a time when the government is under mounting pressure to limit the surge in fast food availability and tackle the Netherlands’ mounting obesity crisis.
The research shows that the big four health insurers Achmea, VGZ, CZ and Menzis have all invested in fast food chains, a move which they say allows them to exert influence. The papers put the insurers’ investment at €8.5 million.
‘We have asked McDonald’s to develop healthier products, to guarantee the affordability and accessibility of good food and to call for public policy which stimulates good health,’ Menzis said in a reaction.
In addition, five of the country’s biggest pension funds, including health service fund PZFW, have put billions of euros into McDonald’s as well as the parent company of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, and Burger King.
‘We invest in an index and all the companies in that index become part of our portfolio,’ the healthcare union told television consumer show Radar. ‘This is unless we explicitly reject a sector, such as tobacco, oil and coal.’
The fund says it does try to bring about change but this is primarily focused on deforestation. ‘So we do not talk to fast food companies we invest in about their unhealthy products,’ a spokesman said. ‘But that does not mean we will not do it in the future.’
Erasmus obesity specialist Liesbeth van Rossum told Radar that investing in the future meant not investing in fast food. ‘Many people would rather buy a hamburger than bread, and [by investing in fast food] you are sending out the wrong signal,’ she said.
Earlier this week, the CDA’s scientific institute called for further restrictions on fast food advertising, including a possible ban on burgers and fries for minors and the government is also considering imposing limits on the number of fast food outlets.
Pension funds have responded to public pressure to change their investment strategies in the past. Last October civil service pension fund ABP said it would stop investing in the producers of fossil fuels, namely oil, gas and coal. It earlier stopped putting money into companies involved in tobacco and nuclear weapons.
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