A broad consensus against the introduction of a sugar tax in the Netherlands has emerged from parties across the political spectrum.
Asked about their position on the issue following the debate in the UK, some Dutch politicians expressed opposition to changing citizens’ behavior through taxation: “People should decide for themselves what they eat and drink“, said Erik Ziengs, from the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). A view shared also by Reinette Klever, Member of the Dutch House of Representatives for the Party for Freedom (PVV), according to whom a sugar tax would be “patronizing“. Others, like Hanke Bruins Slot of the CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal), stressed that “Sugar is a natural product”.
The Socialist Party, which is working towards less sugar and salt in products, has ruled out taxation as an effective measure, preferring instead to push manufacturers to use less sugar and salt.
More strikingly, even parties in favour of a sugar tax like the Labour Party (PvdA) do not have a clear proposal on how to make it technically feasible. “It would mean a lot of hassle”, admitted Ed Groot, Member of the Dutch House of Representatives for the PvdA.
The full article (in Dutch) can be found at: http://www.telegraaf.nl/binnenland/24811269/__Suikertaks_niet_in_zicht__.html
When asked to comment on Jamie Oliver’s controversial ‘sugar tax’, Dutch experts expressed their doubts regarding the efficacy of such measure when it comes to improving public health.
A tax on sugar barely makes sense because consumption may decrease only if prices substantially increase, according to Astrid Postma-Smeets, nutrition and health expert at the Voedingscentrum (Dutch Nutrition Centre). The Nutrition Center is the authority that provides consumers with independent and science-based information on healthy, safe and more sustainable food choices. Instead of campaigning for a ‘sugar-tax’, the Centre is convinced that the best approach to obesity is prevention and education.
Also Jos Look, board member of the Dutch Obesity Society, has his doubts on taxation, especially on soft drinks: “Almost 51 percent of the Dutch population is overweight and more than a third of them is severely overweight. And that is certainly not only because of a Coke. You can find added sugars in everything: even in packaged fresh fruit salad”.
The original article published in De Telegraaf can be found here.
Listen to the radio interview with Raymond Gianotten, Secretary General of FWS, the Dutch Soft Drinks Association, on the proposed soft drinks tax.
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Dutch food news website Food for Food (.org) posted an interview with journalist, blogger and weight consultant Rebecca Rijnders who supports a tax on sugar in the Netherlands.
Despite knowledge and awareness amongst the population that sugar is ‘bad’, some parts of the Dutch population are getting fatter. Rebecca Rijnders says that just like alcohol duties, taxing sugar will send a clear signal to the public, and also raises tax revenues which can help with growing healthcare costs.
The article investigates why sugar is added to some foods – as a preservative, as fuel for yeast, to manage freezing points, texture, but also as a flavouring. The responsibility for sugar consumption however, should be shared between manufacturer, retailer and consumer alike in terms of formulation, offering a range of products and making responsible choices. Industry and governments also have a role to play in information and education of the consumer population.
You can read the full article here at foodforfood.info
In 2010, the Dutch food sector countered the European Public Health Alliance’s urge to Member States to adopt obesity taxes on unhealthy products by saying that a tax would not change consumers’ habits or their purchasing behaviour, according to the Food & Nutrition Delta (FND). FND is a joint initiative between the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry for Agriculture and the food industry.
The discussion about healthy and unhealthy products is difficult and can be traced back to the meaning of ‘health’, says the FND. The discussion on obesity is not about “bad” products as such; a varied and balanced diet is key. In order to tackle obesity, the FND states that governments need to educate people about healthy lifestyles – starting in schools and on social media.
Additionally, taxes may not work in the way that they are intended, they will likely have a very limited impact on retailers: the sector could forestall price increases by using cross-subsidies to compensate losses in one of their product categories.