Today, a consortium starts to incisively map out the influence of consumer behavior and producer choices on the nutritional adequacy and sustainability of dietary patterns in the European project SUSFANS (Metrics, Models and Foresight for Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security).
Around 50 scientists from eleven countries are attending the meeting which is taking place at The Hague. The consortium will identify how nutritional health and food production in the EU can be better aligned. The goal is to identify a future food consumption and production that will lead to sustainable food and nutrition security in the European Union.
The EU agri-food sector now delivers a wide variety of products from all over the EU and the rest of the world, creating convenience for consumers, cushioning risks to producers and creating jobs in rural and urban areas. But European diets are being challenged for leading to overweight and obesity and depletion of the natural resource base in production regions in the EU and beyond.
Access to safe and nutritious food is not guaranteed for all Europe’s consumers as quality and safety have sometimes been compromised. One in every ten Europeans is unable to afford an adequate meal with meat, chicken, fish or vegetarian equivalent every other day. At the same time, about half of the European population is considered overweight or obese. There is an increasing awareness of food poverty across some sections of society, and an increasing mistrust in food and food chains, raised by food scandals.
Environmental concerns have also increased, with climate change having differentiated impacts on agriculture in Northern and Southern Europe through changing land, water quality and yields. More than a 100 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the EU, representing a waste of scarce resources. Furthermore, short-term food crises (due to e.g. weather extremes or financial downturns) need to be guarded against, and the growing pressures on the natural resource base upon which food and nutrition security (FNS) depends need to be reduced.
Access to nutritious food is not guaranteed for all of Europe’s consumers. Strengthening FNS in the EU will, however, require more than overcoming the challenges in production. It goes hand in hand with the need to ensure more adequate diets for EU consumers. Thus, the objectives of the SUSFANS project are “to build the conceptual framework, the evidence base and analytical tools for underpinning EU-wide food policies with respect to their impact on consumer diets and their implications for nutrition and public health in the EU, the environment, the competitiveness of the EU agri-food sectors, and global food and nutrition security“.
Based on a conceptual model of the food chain and its stakeholders, SUSFANS will develop suitable metrics, models and foresights to identify major drivers for sustainable food and nutrition security. The outcomes will help to improve diets in the near future and in the long run. In the consortium, industry and science work together closely.
Moreover, environmental concerns are on the rise, with climate change having differentiated impacts on agriculture in Northern and Southern Europe through changing land, water quality and yields.
19 partners from eleven countries, including three private sector parties, are part of the SUSFANS research project, which is financed through EU’s program Horizon 2020. The project is coordinated by LEI Wageningen UR..