In the Netherlands, the legal minimum age of 18 is applied to buy alcohol, tobacco and drugs due to the implications they have on health.
Now, since there are also harmful effects linked to fast food, a group of experts urges ban their advertising and even sale to children.
A “radically different way of treating what we eat and drink is needed so that the lifestyle and the body are better,” Gerard Adelaar, an independent adviser on health and lifestyle policies, and one of the authors of the study, tells Efe. report published by the Scientific Institute of the Christian Democrat CDA, one of the four parties that make up the coalition that governs the Netherlands.
Among other issues, the group of experts recommends a ban on the advertising of unhealthy foods, reaching agreements on the supply of this type of food, and rising prices of fast food so that it ceases to be a first option. Finally, if the industry does not change its essence, resort to the minimum age as a pressure tool.
The authors of the report see similarities precisely with the historical debates on alcohol and tobacco, for those who today have a minimum age, but consider that “unhealthy food is now causing more harm than smoking.” Obesity, diabetes or cardiovascular diseases are related to poor diet.
In fact, Adelaar believes that fast food should be understood in the same way that alcohol and tobacco are understood today, two products “very harmful to health” therefore, consumers should be prevented from starting to use them at a very young age.
“How realistic is this? Well, we were also asking ourselves the same question twenty years ago when measures against tobacco and alcohol were introduced. And these measures are today very normalized. The real problem is that there is a mismatch between our lifestyle and the body”explains Adelear.
Only if the restaurants that sell fast food do not work to improve their offers with healthier menus, it is suggested to prohibit the sale of fast food to children and young people, although the minimum legal age that should be established in the Netherlands is not defined to radically reduce the access of the youngest to unhealthy foods.
It is the first time in the country that it is proposed to limit this offer by establishing a minimum age for its purchase and if the proposal materializes in a potential law backed by Parliament and Senate, The Netherlands would become the first country where children could no longer, for example, celebrate their birthday party in a fast food restaurant.
Some oppose the proposal
The study understands “body care as a common good”, but the proposal has already generated some opposition in the Netherlands. Rudmer Heerema, a deputy for the right-wing liberal group VVD – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s party – sees this idea as “a bit condescending” towards parents.
“Imagine: a children’s party without chips or croquettes, but with Brussels sprouts. We’re not going to do something like that. We’ll just give everyone a serving of fries from time to time,” she noted, reacting to the proposal.
But Adelaar remembered that “when smoking was banned in cafeterias it also seemed like a patronizing decision” with citizens: “But now I love it, me and many people,” he said. The plan is part of a broad package of proposals to “raise a healthy generation” that understands that a healthy lifestyle must be maintained from an early age.
Forum for Democracy FvD, of the far-right Thierry Baudet, does not agree with the idea either and believes that “the health of children continues to be the responsibility of the parents and the government should not interfere in everything, must let the people make their own decisions,” the party said in a brief message on Twitter.
From within the CDA party itself, deputy Anne Kuik stressed that the Scientific Institute wrote an “important report on healthy living” and that Obesity is a growing problem also among children”, but admitted that the option of the “minimum age goes too far” and that it is necessary to focus first on the industry itself.
But the experts are clear: “The rules of the game for the fast food industry must change, or we will continue with the same problems,” concluded Adelaar.