The Netherlands will not introduce a tax on sugar in the near future because the effectiveness of such a measure has not yet been proven, and other agreements have been made with food firms on reducing sugar in soft drinks, health minister Paul Blokhuis has told MPs.
Worldwide, 43 countries have introduced some form of tax on sugar, including 10 in the EU, and the minister had been urged to do the same here, in an effort to reduce obesity in children and adults.
However, while a comparison of the way the tax on sugary drinks is working in France, Norway and the UK shows some positive benefits, the long term effect cannot yet be proved because the tax has not been implemented for long enough, Blokhuis said.
The research showed that all three countries, consumption of sugar-rich drinks has gone down, and in Norway more bottled water is being sold, but it is unclear if this is the result of the tax, Blokhuis said in his briefing to MPs.
In addition, sugar is not the only cause of being overweight, and other measures are included in the government’s healthy lifestyle programme, he said. For example, the drinks industry has agreed to reduce the amount of calories in soft drinks by 30% in 2025, when compared with 2012.
Another option being looked at is that of making healthy food cheaper than food containing high levels of sugar and fat, the minister said.
Research published by the Dutch consumers organisation Consumentenbond last month showed that some fruit drinks aimed at children have more than four sugar cubes of sweetener per portion.
And Unicef said in a report last week that 75% of the food aimed specifically at children is unhealthy, containing too many calories, too much salt, sugar and saturated fats or was too low in fiber.
Unicef also found that supermarkets showed ‘no reticence’ when it comes to promoting unhealthy products for children, particularly through the use of popular cartoon characters. Some 16% of children and teenagers in the Netherlands are overweight and 3% are considered to be obese.
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