The agreement between the health ministry and the food industry to lower sugar, salt and saturated fat content in products has had a limited effect, national health institute RIVM has found.
The agreement, which dates from 2014, means people are eating on average 0.5 grams a day less salt, or ‘a pinch’, the RIVM said. Bread, meat, cheese and soups in particular contain slightly less salt.
Sugar intake went down by an average of 7.5 grams, or two lumps of sugar, mainly because of less sugar in fizzy drinks, and, to a lesser extent, dairy products.
There are no figures for saturated fat reductions because not enough products had been included in the agreement.
Dutch adults eat around 8.7 grams of salt and 114 grams of sugar a day. The norm is six grams of salt while saturated fats can account for 10% of the total energy intake. No official limit has been set for sugar intake. The advice is to limit consumption of sweets, biscuits and fizzy drinks.
The RIVM said ‘small steps’ have been taken but that the Dutch are still eating too much salt and sugar which can lead to heart disease and obesity related illnesses such as diabetes.
‘Much more could have been achieved if more products would have been included,’ the RIVM concluded, ‘or if salt and sugar contents would have been reduced more.’
In March, Dutch consumers association Consumentenbond called on the next government to make sure that real efforts are made to reduce the amount of salt, sugar and fat in processed food.
‘The agreement from 2014 has delivered little,’ Consumentenbond chief Sandra Molenaar said. ‘Our tests have shown repeatedly that few advances have been made. Vegaburgers, pea soup and stocks are too salty, sate sauce and meal replacements are too sweet and frozen pizzas are still too fatty.’
And in April, the public health advisory body RVS said greater efforts should be made to end the continuing health divide in the Netherlands by promoting healthy eating and tackling the societal problems which support it.
The RVS also wants the next government to introduce a tax on sugar.
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