Introduce levies on added sugar, salt, and red meat in the Netherlands and make fruit and vegetables cheaper. That is what a report from the country's Scientific Council for Integral Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition (RIDLV) recommends.
According to this council, the Dutch food system is adding to the current problems. Those are the climate, biodiversity, and chronic welfare diseases crises. As well as the crisis of confidence among farmers. These issues should not be tackled separately, but together, as 'Health in Triplicate'.
“We want health to become the catalyst for transforming agriculture and the entire food system. Government, businesses, healthcare, and civil society organizations can use this principle. It can also provide a basis for collaboration," says Herman Wijffels, a RIDLV member.
The council recommends a fundamental paradigm shift. It must move away from cheap food and short-term efficiency to a system that puts health first.
The report is topical. That is when one considers the Netherlands cabinet formation and farmers' protests. As well as the European Commission's Farm to Fork strategy and the UN Summit on Food Systems. But, says the RIDVL, different departments, interest groups, and research institutions still separately approach the current issues.
“Far more coordination and cooperation are needed," says chairperson Edith Lammerts van Bueren. "But this should not be purely top-down. Or through the classic 'polder' model. The general public must become more involved. We're considering a Citizens' Council on Agriculture and Food."
"There, farmers, citizens, companies, supermarkets, people from the health sector, NGOs, and other stakeholders can talk. This is best done at the regional level. But it can also be national. The national government and provinces will have to make funds available for this."
Recommendation: "Make fruit and vegetables cheaper"
The RIDVL has made some recommendations to the food system's main players. To the government: introduce taxes on added sugar, salt, and red meat. But make fruit and vegetables cheaper. Ban all unhealthy, unsustainable food marketing to children. That includes social media. And do more spatial planning to solve the natural areas' nitrogen problems.
To the food industry: Stop producing ultra-processed food and opt for triple health. To the supermarkets: Make the healthy choice the easy one for consumers. And pay farmers who score well on triple health better.
To NGOs: Create a standard triple health rating system for supermarkets. And to higher education: make nutrition a genuine part of doctor and health care provider training.