Due to a growing world population and increasing prosperity, the demand for good nutrition that provides an optimal intake of nutrients with a low impact on the environment is growing. What roles do the various parties play?
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the global food production should increase by 70% between 2009 and 2050 in order to be able to meet the demand for food in 2050. Feeding the growing world population in a responsible way requires sustainable and healthy nutrition. In other words: a sustainable diet.
A sustainable diet provides sufficient nutrients and energy with a low impact on the environment. Apart from this, the food is available, affordable and fits in with the eating habits of the population. (1)
Roles of parties
Scientists go into the question of what a sustainable diet may look like. This question is not easy to answer, as measuring the environmental impact of a foodstuff or product group involves more than just the CO2 emission for the production of this foodstuff. The (re)use of natural resources for the production of food, such as water, soil, minerals and biodiversity is to be taken into account as well when determining the sustainability level. Of course, optimum efficiency in the use of resources within the production chain and reduction of the amount of waste are important. (2)
Simply replacing products with more sustainable variants is not the solution. Practice shows that replacement of one product (group) often changes the nutrient intake. The challenge lies in keeping food valuable from a dietary point of view with minimum environmental impact. (2) Currently, nutritional recommendations which follow The Eatwell Guide (Public Health England) are the best option. Reducing consumption of food and drinks with of a low nutritional value, reducing the intake of red meat and to consume two to three servings of milk(products) a day are changes that are likely to have the most impact on making a diet more sustainable. (3)
Consumers are increasingly aware of sustainability. The consumer tries to pay more attention to sustainability by separating waste or by recycling, by using less energy through, for instance, using low-energy light bulbs, by consuming less and by creating a minimum amount of waste. (4) For consumers there are a few practical tips with respect to food: do not eat more than you need and choose products that have undergone minimum processing, such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, milk (products) and whole-meal grain products. The body does not need any extras, such as confectionary and snacks, and these food products provide less nutrients. (5) Disposing of things is a waste: therefore wasting less food is an important step towards a more sustainable household. (3)
- FAO (2012). Sustainable diets and biodiversity. Directions and solutions for policy, research and action. Food and Agriculture Organisation. Rome, 2012.
- Johnston, J.L. et al (2014). Understanding sustainable diets: a descriptive analysis of the determinants and processes that influence diets and their impact on health, foodsecurity, and environmental sustainability. Advances in Nutrition, No. 5: 418–429, 2014; doi:10.3945/an.113.005553.
- Sustainable development commission (2009). Setting the table. Advice to Government on priority elements of sustainable diets. Sustainable Development Commission December 2009.
- Sustainability compass (2015). Sustainability will be the standard for consumers. Schuttelaar & Partners and SAMR. 2015.
- Eatwell Guide (2016). Public Health England in association with the Welsh government, Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland.