Minister of State Martin van Oijen of Public Health has expressed “extreme anger” over the increase in taxes on soft drinks from January 1, which also applies to oat milk. The controversial “lemonade tax” aims to generate additional government revenue while discouraging sugar consumption.
Mineral water and dairy products are excluded, but most dairy alternatives are treated like lemonade and are therefore more expensive, even if they contain no added sugar. The reason for this is that there is no category in the tax system for this relatively new product group.
Van Ogen He previously defended this decisionBut he now admits that this is “actually an unintended, unwanted, and even irrational effect.” However, he wants to allow the tax rise to continue, which would make Coke with lots of sugar and oat milk without sugar 17 cents per liter more expensive from January 1.
This Tuesday, 22-year-old college student Misty Mason proposed to her Petition ‘Stop the lemonade tax on milk alternatives’ before the House of Representatives. Later this week, taxes will be discussed and voted on. This petition received nearly 40,000 signatures on Sunday.
The number of signatures quickly increased after oat milk company Oatly began campaigning for this. For example, the company placed two billboards in Amsterdam with an image of a can of oatmeal and the text: “This is not lemonade, the government says it is,” with a QR code on the petition.
The “consumer tax” on soft drinks, among other things, is currently 9 cents per litre. Effective January 1, this will increase to 26 cents. Dairy products are exempt from this tax, according to Van Oijen, because the Nutrition Center recommends their consumption in the five-wheeler. Among dairy alternatives, only soy drinks with added nutrients are exempt from the tax, as they are also included in the five wheel.
The Cabinet is working against its goals
The Nutrition Center in particular is critical of increased taxes on most plant-based beverages. She believes this tax should only apply to drinks that contain a lot of sugar.
It’s true that oat and almond beverage alternatives often contain fewer nutrients than dairy products and are therefore not always included in the 5-Wheel. At the same time, these drinks are often enriched with nutrients, and there are also oat and pea drinks on sale that already meet the five wheel criteria.
These products will also be charged an additional tax of 17 cents soon. An additional point of criticism is that the government wants the Dutch to eat and drink less animal proteins and more plant proteins, and with this tax it contradicts its own goal.
‘Smart’ sugar tax
State Secretary Van Oijen says it is not possible to create a separate category for dairy alternatives, and therefore they cannot be exempt from the tax increase. The Party for the Animals believes this is possible and has introduced an amendment to the tax plan. “This means that drinks consisting of at least 2% ingredients such as nuts, oats or legumes should also be exempt,” says Member of Parliament Eva van Esch. The House of Representatives will vote on this week.
Health scientist Maartje Polmann from Wageningen University and Research is also crucial. “If the government wants to focus on the protein shift, it’s not smart to make plant-based dairy alternatives more expensive. I think this simply wasn’t taken into account when developing the legislation.”
She finds it remarkable that bottled mineral water could have been exempted from the tax, because tap water is safe to drink in the Netherlands. “If the government wanted to use taxes to discourage sugar consumption, it would be better off imposing an appropriate tax on sugar. For example, a system that gradually taxes products based on the amount of sugar they contain, as is done in the UK.
Van Ogen says the Cabinet is working on imposing such a “smart tax on sugar.” “However, this should have the effect that sugar-free oat milk falls into a different tax bracket than cola, which contains a lot of sugar.” At the same time, he acknowledges that this cannot be done overnight, and that the additional sugar tax in principle does not change the 17-cent tax increase on oat milk.
Stop splurging on chocolate milk and oatmeal drinks
Is oat milk lemon juice? The Cabinet thinks so. Is milk lemon juice? No, not this again. This seems like a strange debate, but the question is actually important because the excise tax on “lemonade” will increase in 2024.