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Dutch gov’t working on law to limit fast food chains

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The Dutch government is working on a law to stop the proliferation of fast-food chains. The law should help municipalities say no to new fast-food restaurants opening on every corner, like the big cities asked for last year, State Secretary Maarten van Ooijen of Prevention said to newspaper AD.

“Something really needs to be done. One in seven children is now overweight, and things are going in the wrong direction. In lower social classes, it’s even one in three,” Van Ooijen said. There’s nothing in the coalition agreement about such curbing of free enterprise, but according to the State Secretary, a fast-food law fits within the coalition’s “health goals.”

The Cabinet previously tried to steer people more to healthy eating with a sugar tax, but Van Ooijen worries that this was not enough. “You really don’ want that excess of supply. Eating a hamburger or a doner sandwich is no problem. But I don’t want those huge numbers, nor do I want them so close to schools,” he said. “Of course, you can continue to eat fries. But I want that to be a deliberate choice, not controlled by a billboard advertising unhealthy food on every street corner.”

The Cabinet is still working out how these limitations should work. Van Ooijen will present the options to parliament this year.

“I don’t want to impose any dictates like only zero soft drinks can be sold. I do want to offer legal options to schools to limit or completely exclude soft drinks and unhealthy food like sweets and snacks. Now they can’t,” he said. “Municipalities say: help us. Recently we visited a school that really set a healthy example. But a few steps from the gate, advertisers stood with big signs: pizza slice for a few euros. Then try to control yourself. We have to help with that.”

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