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VILNIUS – The Lithuanian health ministry and 11 food producers signed a cooperation agreement on Thursday to cut sugar, salt and fats in food products to ensure healthier nutrition in the Baltic country.
According to the agreement, the companies would make changes in their production voluntarily. Among the first companies that agreed to cut sugar, salt and fats in their production are local food businesses as well as subsidiaries of international companies, including Coca Cola, Nestle, and Mars.
Lithuanian Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga said preparations for the agreement took around a year.
“Food industry is the place where we could make a success story, and there are broad opportunities for cooperation,” Veryga told a press conference on Thursday.
The agreement has been signed to improve nutrition in the country. According to the Lithuanian health ministry, the amount of salt, fat, saturated fat and sugars consumed by Lithuanians exceed the levels recommended by the World Health Organization by 40 percent, 39 percent, 29 percent and 22 percent respectively.
“In Lithuania, the majority of deaths are those that could be avoided. Lifestyle and nutrition has an important role here,” Veryga told journalists.
Food companies promise to make gradual changes in their production.
“We plan to cut sugars by another 15 per cent by 2020,” head of the Coca Cola Company for Baltic States Ieva Matulaitiene told journalists after signing the agreement. She noted sugars had been cut by around 12 percent until 2015 and another 12 percent during the last two years in beverages sold in Lithuania.
Though, producers noted that measures to cut sugar, salt and fat while retaining taste could lead to price increase in some products.
The agreement could change the health minister’s plans to impose additional tax on sugar. “If we succeed in this, there would be no need to impose new taxes,” said Veryga.