Proposals to introduce a so-called ‘sugar tax’ on unhealthy foods in Lithuania have been put on hold after a voluntary code was agreed with food producers.

The Baltic country’s government and 11 food producers – local food businesses as well as subsidiaries of international companies, including Coca Cola and Nestle – have signed off on a deal which is intended to see a marked reduction in the levels of sugar, salt and fat in food manufactured and sold there.

Lithuanian health minister Aurelijus Veryga told a press conference the agreement took around a year to put in place.

“If we succeed in this, there would be no need to impose new taxes,” he said.

Lithuania’s government is keen to improve nutrition standards in a country in which, according to the World Health Organization, salt consumption is 40% over its recommended level and sugar consumption 39% over.

Food companies have promised to make gradual production changes to improve the nutritional content of their products.

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Veryga said he hoped other companies will sign up to the agreement in the future.