Wednesday 12 May 2021

Health charities call on next government to get serious about sugar, salt and fat


An alliance between Unicef, Amsterdam city council and four health charities is calling on the next cabinet to get tough on unhealthy eating and the over-use of sugar, salt and fats.

The four groups – which focus on diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and kidney problems – are all signatories to the government’s 2018 ‘national prevention agreement’, which focuses on food industry self-regulation, but now say not enough is being done.

‘The ambitions were good but the measures too weak,’ Tom Oostrom, director of the kidney charity Nierstichting told Trouw. ‘13,000 people die a year because of poor diet, making it the second most important avoidable cause of death, next to smoking.’

‘Some 350,000 children are currently too heavy. A generation is growing up with surplus weight and if we continue as we are, by 2040, two-thirds of the population will be overweight.’

Junior health minister Paul Blokhuis said in September that 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.

In addition, other agreements have been made with food firms on reducing sugar in soft drinks, 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.


Research published by the Dutch consumer organisation Consumentenbond last August showed that some fruit drinks aimed at children have more than four sugar cubes of sweetener per portion.

And Unicef said in a report in September 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.

The public health institute RIVM is due to publish a review of progress made since the agreement was signed this spring.

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