Researchers from the University of Utrecht, VU University Amsterdam and WUR established the unhealthy oversupply in a monitoring study commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. It research bears the name ‘Monitoring the level of health of the supply and promotions of supermarkets and out-of-home chains’. The researchers took a ‘picture of the market’ to get an idea of the range and promotions in supermarkets and a number of catering chains and to what extent the range and promotions are ‘responsible’. Responsible is defined as fitting in the Wheel of Five.
No bright image emerges from the monitor. Eighty percent of the supermarket supply is not responsible. The products that are most often on sale – such as sweets, biscuits, alcohol, soft drinks, meat and poultry – together make up 36% of the supermarket range. The healthy product groups, vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish and eggs, together account for 13% of the supply. At catering chains, 91% of the supply falls outside the Wheel of Five.
Have the government introduce the Nutri-Score immediately, says Jansen fiercely
What do those providers think of so much wrong offer that they are put in such a corner? We asked Marc Jansen, director of supermarket umbrella organization CBL. “At the risk that it if greenwashing is seen, I would like to start by saying what we are already doing,” says Jansen. “We are already reporting a lot, we are constantly monitoring. If those critics would just start absorbing that information, they would see that an enormous amount has already been achieved.” Hundreds of products have been reformulated, private labels no longer have kids marketing (nowhere else in Europe has that been successful yet) and there are more healthy products than ever in the supermarket. Jansen does not see much in (again) a new monitor. A monitor only generates new discussions, afterwards, and does not relieve the supermarkets of the responsibility to make products better and to serve customers to inform.
“Let the government introduce the Nutri-Score immediately,” says Jansen fiercely. “If State Secretary Paul Blokhuis enters that logo at the touch of a button tonight, the products with the food choice logo will flow into supermarkets tomorrow. Then the customer can choose for themselves, companies can use it in marketing and it will certainly have the effect that manufacturers reformulate to get a more favorable score, for example from C to B. It stimulates innovation. Now we simply lack such an instrument to allow the consumer to make a well-informed choice, and you can continue to monitor until you weigh an ounce .” He says with a wink: “and maybe Blokhuis would like that too.”
Horecaketen McDonald’s, the largest catering company in the Netherlands, has also been pointing out for years “making responsible choices easy and attractive for our guests and offering transparency about the nutritional values of the menu.” The fast food chain always emphasizes to offer fruit and vegetables in the Happy Meal, to use nudging to make responsible choice easier and to actively reduce the amounts of sugar, salt and fat in the product range.
If there is a three-yearly monitor, as the researchers propose, McDonald’s will of course cooperate with it
But in the end it is the consumer who chooses to visit McDonald’s and make a choice from the menu. “We understand that, in line with the prevention agreement, the government is investigating how the healthy choice can become the easy choice,” says spokesperson Eunice Koekkoek. “Instruments such as the Wheel of Five, but also the Nutri-Score, for example, provide direction, based on the principle that we already commit ourselves to making responsible choices easier and exploring improvements in nutritional values in our products.” If there is a three-yearly monitor, as the researchers propose, McDonald’s will of course cooperate with it, “with the principle of self-regulation by the industry to take steps forward as companies.”
‘Seducing with healthy food’
Albron does not immediately feel attracted by the results of the monitor. “We have to deal with this regularly, especially from the company catering,” says Joni Beintema. “The common thread with us is how we can contribute to a more vital world and a more sustainable environment, how we can tempt people with healthy food as well.” In line with retail representative Jansen, Albron also says he will welcome the introduction of the Nutri-Score, “because it allows you to show that you are improving”.
We have been saying for years that a glass of wine fits perfectly in a healthy lifestyle. Mind you, a glass, not a bottle
Koninklijke Horeca Nederland was unable to formulate a response. After several contact attempts and reminders for a response, KHN said “with all the other things that are going on at the moment, we should let this pass by for a while.”
‘A glass, not a bottle’
Peter van Houtert, chairman of the Royal Dutch Association of Wine Merchants (KNVW), immediately finds room for a reaction. “Well no”, he says, “I don’t feel addressed. We have been saying for years that a glass of wine fits perfectly in a healthy lifestyle. Mind you, a glass, not a bottle.” A good glass of wine helps to relax and that is vital. It is not without reason that the motto of the KNVW is ‘Enjoy, but drink in moderation’. He experiences all those reports as patronizing, making them despondent. “Look at the range of restaurants. You can eat vegetarian everywhere, you can get the most fantastic salads, that would have been unimaginable in the past. The Mediterranean diet is the healthiest diet in the world. And that includes a glass of wine. ”
Van Houtert points out that things are actually not going bad in the Netherlands. The minimum age for selling alcohol is 18 years (in Germany and Belgium 16 years), there is information in schools and the numbers of binge drinkers are decreasing. “And then it can sometimes be said that we all pay for it out of our own pocket. Did you know that the money for the BOB campaign and campaigns for alcohol moderation is coughed up by the sector? The government should offer the opportunity to buy a few cent for the promotion to drink less alcohol and live healthy.” Van Houtert is in favor of monitoring and enforcement because “we want to continue to sell beautiful wines in the future”.
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‘Just look at what we have achieved’ – Horeca and supermarkets offer you ‘irresponsible food’ – what do they think of that? – Food log