The National Approach to Product Improvement ('Nationale Aanpak Productverbetering' or NAPV) started in 2022. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport uses the NAPV to motivate producers to improve the composition of their food products. RIVM has developed steps to make gradual improvements. We have done this together with the Netherlands Nutrition Centre and HAS University of Applied Sciences. In the coming years, we will check the changes that producers of food products make.

Goal of the NAPV

The NAPV is part of the National Prevention Agreement. The goal of this agreement is to make it easier for people to choose healthy foods. This is because half of all Dutch people are overweight. Improving food products is important. But it is also important that people make healthy choices. The Wheel of Five and food choice logos like Nutri-Score can help with this.

The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has set a goal for the amount of nutrients in food products. By 2030, it wants half of the products in every product group to be in the best category. It also wants no more than 10% to be in the worst category. To achieve this goal, the Ministry needs producers to make previously agreed improvements sooner. Producers must also make these improvements to all processed food products.

Making food products better, one step at a time

The Ministry encourages producers to make processed food products better, one step at a time. They can do this by adding less salt and/or sugar, and/or by lowering the amount of saturated fat. They can also increase the amount of fibre in products like brown bread. For example, by using more wholemeal flour. Producers can take steps to improve food products that are far from ideal. But they can also improve food products that are already healthier. We have designed a method with criteria for this.

How does this method work?

Food products are divided into product groups. The groups are based on things like composition/recipe, production method, sell-by date and texture. You can read the list of definitions and examples to find out more about these groups (document in Dutch). For every product in a product group (such as soup or cake), we have listed the amounts of three nutrients. We used the information on the packaging labels in the Dutch Branded Food Database (Levensmiddelendatabank). Based on these existing amounts we set three limits for salt, sugar and/or saturated fat for each product group. These limits are low, medium and high. As a result, each product group has three steps for improvement. There is a step for salt, one for sugar and one for saturated fat. There is an exception if the product group only has a small part of the total amount of the nutrient that you consume each day. In the coming years, producers can use these g limits to improve the amounts of more than one nutrient. For example: if a product is currently above the highest limit for a nutrient, the producer can first try to get the amount under the ‘high’ limit. After that, it can try to get the amount under the ‘medium’ limit. For another nutrient, the goal can be to get the amount under the lowest limit. The following shows how this works for crunchy muesli (breakfast cereals).

NAPV method example muesli

Every producer knows the limits they must try to reach with their product. The improvements they make to each individual product contribute to the results of the product group as a whole.

Wholesale products

The current criteria are based on information about products sold in supermarkets. The type of many of the products sold by wholesalers is much the same as the type of those sold in supermarkets. That is why the criteria also apply to wholesale products.

What comes next

The hope is that more and more companies will take part in the NAPV. RIVM will give progress updates in 2025, 2028 and 2031. We will check to see if food products have improved. We are currently investigating if it is possible to give improvements a weight based on market volume. To do this, we combine information from the Dutch Branded Food Database (Levensmiddelendatabank) with transaction information from supermarkets. This would give us greater insight into the effect of product improvements on total consumption.

The plan is to make the product improvement criteria apply to all processed food products. This way, we can include products used in restaurants. Another goal of the NAPV is to make ready-to-eat meals healthier. RIVM is currently investigating the possibilities for this. We are doing this together with the Netherlands Nutrition Centre and other parties.


RIVM worked with the Netherlands Nutrition Centre and HAS University of Applied Sciences to design the new criteria. The project was commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. 

Several parties gave feedback while we developed the method and the criteria. We also asked for advice about product improvements from experts. Like food scientists from Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. Because we are a member of the criteria and monitoring working group, we will participate in meetings with producers. This will allow us to stay informed about the practical results of this approach.

RIVM is also participating in the European Joint Action Best-ReMap in the work package on reformulation and processed food monitoring.

History of food reformulation at RIVM

Since 2012, RIVM has been monitoring the levels of salt, saturated fat and sugar in processed foods in supermarkets every two years (the Reformulation Monitor).  Since 2014, RIVM also monitors the composition of groups of foods for which agreements were made within the National Agreement to Improve Product composition (AVP). In 2020 it was the last time that the agreements were monitored and monitoring will continue within the frame of the new approach to improve food composition.

More information (in Dutch and English):