According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, world food production will need to increase by an estimated 70 percent to feed everyone by 2050. To achieve this, our food systems will need to become more sustainable to meet the declining availability of land, water and energy resources.
Remarkably, while food insecurity remains an issue for many, about 20 percent of the food produced in Europe today is wasted. This is compounded by the fact that Europe has the second highest proportion of overweight people behind America, with 51.6 percent of its adult population overweight or obese.
In this context, the EU must deliver on its promise to build a fairer, healthier, and more environmentally friendly food system, and its recently published Farm to Fork strategy is the first step towards achieving this. The strategy is set to accelerate the transition to sustainable food systems in Europe and help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, with an increased focus on reducing food poverty, promoting good health and wellbeing and fighting climate change.
Promoting sustainable diets
Since Herbalife Nutrition was founded 40 years ago, it has championed everyone’s right to access good, balanced nutrition, as part of a healthy lifestyle. We fully support the Farm to Fork strategy, as it facilitates the shift towards more sustainable diets, notably by further promoting plant-based diets. As European consumers make more sustainability-conscious and health-driven food decisions, plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular.
The EU is already supporting this transition and the Farm to Fork strategy will play a major role in furthering this. It must encourage the sustainable production of plant proteins in the EU by developing a European plant protein strategy and pushing for the integration of plant proteins in the CAP national strategic plans. This would boost the plant protein market and, with the inevitable greater investment in research and development, would move the EU closer to protein sovereignty. There is also a need to invest in educational programmes, particularly in schools, to communicate the benefits of plant proteins and thereby change consumer behaviour from an early age. This would not only put the EU at the forefront of the transition to more sustainable diets, but also help consumers make the right choices for their health and wellbeing.
"We fully support the Farm to Fork strategy, as it facilitates the shift towards more sustainable diets, notably by further promoting plant-based diets"
Pioneering science-based innovation
Food innovation can lead to new foods and ingredients that match consumers’ demand, while providing healthier choices. Although current European policies supporting research and innovation in nutritional science are a significant step forward, the Farm to Fork strategy should encourage European companies to invest further in innovative science-based nutrition solutions.
The EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation 1924/2006 is a welcome first step, but companies also need tailored criteria for nutrition and health claims assessments if we are to unlock the full potential of food innovation in the EU.
For example, in recent years the number of authorised nutrition and health claims on botanicals has been steadily decreasing, to the point that in 2018 there were no such claims approved. This is because it is difficult to assess the efficacy of those products in the same way as for drugs. The efficacy assessment of such products should be different and consider their unique specificities.
"The EU Farm to Fork strategy has the potential to be pivotal in the long-term sustainability of the EU food supply and the health and wellbeing of future generations of EU citizens and it is exciting to be part of it"
It is equally important to encourage a transparent dialogue between economic operators and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) during food safety assessment. This must not influence the outcome of the assessment but rather ensure that companies investing in safe and efficient products have clear and defined guidelines indicating the studies required as part of the assessment process. This is particularly important for SMEs. Without those guidelines, companies will not be able to invest in and advance the production of innovative, safe and effective food choices for EU citizens.
The EU Farm to Fork strategy has the potential to be pivotal in the long-term sustainability of the EU food supply and the health and wellbeing of future generations of EU citizens and it is exciting to be part of it.