Calls for lower taxes on healthy food

Reducing taxes on healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and ensuring compliance with food supply rules in schools are some of the priorities highlighted in a new report.

The document, which reviewed the performance of government policies related to healthy eating, also recommends expanding the plan to reformulate food products, including catering.

According to the report, released by the Directorate-General for Health (DGS), to ensure the application of existing guidelines for food supply in schools, a model should be defined that includes more supervision.

The authors of the paper also recommend the definition of a nutrient profile model to serve as a basis for implementing measures to promote a healthy nutritional environment and propose a change to the VAT code.

The intention is “to include, in addition to the essentiality criterion, other criteria(s) for the allocation of VAT rates that consider the nutritional profile of foods and/or their framework in the context of a healthy diet”.

Incorporating the Healthy Eating Program into the core primary health care portfolio and defining indicators to regularly monitor food consumption, nutritional status and health outcomes related to diet and nutrition.

Specialists also suggest improving the nutrition and public health workforce, adjusting the ratio of nutritionists in primary care, and integrating at least one of these professionals into each public health unit at the primary health care level.

Another recommendation is to include the most vulnerable population groups, ie the elderly, pregnant women, children, young people and ethnic minorities, as priority action groups in national programs in the field of nutrition and healthy nutrition.

The paper recalls that inadequate nutrition is one of the leading preventable causes of chronic non-communicable diseases, namely obesity, oncological diseases, cerebrovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus, and underlines that the latest data from the Global Burden Disease, 2019, show that “in Portugal, inadequate eating habits are among the five risk factors that most determine the loss of healthy life years and death”.

“Given the weight that dietary risk factors have on the disease burden in Portugal, similar to what has been seen in other European countries, the implementation of measures that promote healthy eating is required, namely measures aimed at creating healthy food environments.” experts write.

They emphasize that Portugal has tried to respond and followed international recommendations, by applying “a wide range of measures aimed at creating healthy food environments”, citing as an example the excise tax on sugary drinks, legislation introducing restrictions for food advertising aimed at children and the regulation of food supplies in various public areas (e.g. educational institutions and the National Health Service).

More than half of the Portuguese population (56%) does not meet the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to consume more than 400 g/day of fruits and vegetables, according to data from the latest National Food and Physical Activity Survey (2015- ). 2016).

Data from the latest National Health Survey (2019), released by the National Statistics Institute (INE), shows that 53.6% of the Portuguese adult population is overweight (pre-obesity or obese), and obesity affects 1.5 million people (16.9%).

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