Tastier, healthier, more Danish – Dan Jørgensen

Agriculture Minister Dan Jørgensen's food revolution has caused a minor uproar in a country that pays notoriously little attention to what it puts in its collective mouth

If there is a way to Danes’ hearts, it is through their wallets. Such is the reality in a country’s with the world’s greatest tax burden.

Dan Jørgensen, however, would like to see people think more about their bellies than their bank balance next time they shop. As food, agriculture and fisheries minister in a country with the EU’s highest food prices, he has his task cut out for him.

Jørgensen has long had greenish issues like climate and animal welfare on his agenda. The reputation was one forged in Brussels where, as MEP, he sat as vice-chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

Danes, then, knew what they were in for when he was appointed to his his first cabinet post earlier this year. Or maybe they thought they knew what they were getting, for his ministry had, until then, been more associated with gently nudging consumers and producers – if it was associated with anything at all.

Perhaps because of his passion for food, perhaps encouraged by the surge in Danes’ self-confidence about their terroir, or perhaps because he saw an opening during the summer slow season, Jørgensen launched not one but two broadsides against the nation’s food producers and consumers in July.

His first complaint was directed at supermarkets. He argued they encourage consumers to make bad food choices by placing unhealthy foods in high-traffic locations, and prominently advertising junk food place in their weekly flyers.

“Retailers need to be forced to re-think how we get people to make healthier choices,” Jørgensen told Politiken newspaper. “As it is right now, we see cynical attempts to place highly unhealthy foods on offer. I don’t think retailers are doing enough.”

It did not go down well; consumers and retailers bristled at being told what they should, and should not, be eating. Their resistance almost served to justify his point, but he was nevertheless labelled as “North Korean” by the political opposition – a term inspired, no doubt, by the “food revolution” Jørgensen says he is pursuing.

Better received was his message that, when in doubt, health-conscious Danes should reach for a nationally produced food item. Nutritionists agreed. Organic food growers said he was oversimplifying the issue, but were pleased with the attention the matter was getting. A patriotic people could better swallow this message.

Jørgensen has defended his food activism. “As food minister, I’ve got an opinion about what we eat,” he told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

The food minister, though, has remained silent about summer’s other big food issue: lower VAT on healthy food. But then again, he’s never claimed to be tax minister. M


By Kevin McGwin

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