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.