The theme that the World Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has given to the World Food Day of this year 2021 is “Our actions are our future”.
And so it is, like everything in life, each step and each action that we undertake, determines our future. We,all of us, are an active and responsible part of a complex, living and moldable system called food system.
FAO defines food systems as a set of actors and the relationship of the set of activities established between all of them through the different interrelationships that make possible the production, transformation, distribution and consumption of the food.
The elements that make up food systems are multiple and integrate both aspects of the production, storage, processing, packaging and logistics as well as issues related to quality, nutritional, safety and price related aspects, even issues such as information and behavior of the consumers. Given all these factors- and many others!- and their interrelationship, it is not unreasonable to think that food systems are of crucial importance to many of the challenges and goals we must address globally, inlcuding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Among these objectives, and particularly two of them, are those aimed at achieving “Zero Hunger” (SDG2) and “End Poverty” (SDG1) on which we must place special emphasis today.
Most of the current food systems are not capable of adapting, anticipating or being resilient to stressful situations or of supplying the present needs, in some cases, or to anticipate the needs of a growing population.
There is a clear need to transition to more inclusive, resilient and sustainable food systems
A sustainable food system integrates varied and sufficient, nutritious and safe food with a fair price for all, where there are no forms of malnutrition and no hungry. Policies and strategies are necessary, but also our personal contribution as active members of the system. Every time we choose foods, we make mutiple decisions and do our part towards our healthy, but also, more sustainable diet, which contributes to the restoration of natural resources. Towards an equitable trade, leading the way towards the eradication of poverty and malnutrition, thus protecting human rights.
On World Food Day, every October 16 since 1979,the collective action of a large number of countries is promoted to carry out events, communication and dissemination activities with the aim of promoting the need to eradicate hunger and guarantee healthy diets for all the members of this planet.
We must address challenges related to world population growth, climate change, diet-related diseases, depletion of natural resources and associated specific situations such as pandemics or natural disasters.
Each October 16 since 42 years ago, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations promotes the celebration of World Food Day.In this case under the slogan “OUR ACTIONS ARE OUR FUTURE”
The European Union proposed to address the challenge of food security and nutrition through research and development policies aimed at guaranteeing the future of our food systems so that they turn into more sustainable, resilient,responsible, inclusive, diverse and competitive within the FOOD 2030 strategy and it is intended to provide solutions to four major general priorities of the food systems:
NUTRITION: ensuring healthy and sustainable diets.
CLIMATE: achieve climate-smart and sustainable food systems that adapt the climate change.
CIRCULARITY: reducing the use of resources and improving the efficiency of food systems, including zero food waste.
INNOVATION: fostering sustainable and accessible food sharing for all communities, cities and rural areas, developing data-driven food and nutrition systems that meet societal needs.
At CARTIF we work in different pathways of intervention that allow us to advance in this direction, such as the shift to more sustainable and healthy diets, the identification and use of new sources of protein, reduction of food waste, food security or urban food systems.
In this sense, FUSILLI project (Fostering the Urban Food System transformation through Innovative Living Labs Implementation, funded by the European Union´s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme) general aim is achieving an integrated and safe transition towards food systems in pan-European cities and their peri-urban areas by creating a sustainable urban food plan, with environmental, social and economic aspects that integrates actions in the four pillars of the FOOD 2030 strategy.
Yes, we hold the future of food in our hands. Each step that each of us takes in the right direction ensures food and nutrition for healthy and sustainable diets while maintaining the environment, our health, equity and social inclusion, and the economy. Be part of the change that you want to see.
Today, October 16, is commemorated, as every year since 1979, World Food Day, promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This year, the FAO makes a special call to achieve healthy food for all corners of the planet and, especially, for the most disadvantaged places, even more so at the moment due to the pandemic that is devastating us. In addition, people who cultivate the land, collect, fish or transport our food are honored in a special way. They are today the #HeroesofFood.
World Food Day has been celebrated every October 16 since 1979, promoted by the FAO. This year it does so under the motto “2020; cultivate, nurture, preserve, together “
Changes in nutritional habits in Europe are becoming more and more evident. The increase in diseases related to malnutrition – and the impact of this fact on the health system – which we already talked about in a previous post (Malnutrition due to excess), translates into more than 70% of the adult population with overweight and 30% obesity, while 820 million people in the world suffer from hunger (FAO Data, 2020).
On the other hand, the current food system – which includes cultivation, animal husbandry, transformation, packaging and transport – is responsible for 37% of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are generated annually, and that food losses and waste also contribute 8-10% of the total (IPCC Data, 2019) as we also commented in another post (Tell me what you eat … and I’ll tell you if it’s good for the planet).
A large part of Europe’s food systems produce unsustainably and display unhealthy consumption patterns. It is necessary to align the objectives related to production, with those related to nutrition and health.
Sadly, with these data, we can say that if our current food systems are characterized by something, it is by unhealthy and unsustainable diets from an environmental point of view.
In summary, it can be said that, despite the growing interest of the population in food, nutrition and food quality and the benefits that a healthy diet has on health, the European Union has been experiencing a negative transition for years marked by the increase in these non-communicable diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer or chronic respiratory diseases).
For this reason, food systems need to face great challenges such as feeding a growing population, also concentrated in urban centers, while reducing the pressure on natural productive systems in the context of climate change. By achieving this transformation, we will improve our diet, our health and the health of the planet.
We all have a relevant role in making our food systems more resilient and robust so that they can adapt to each situation and climate change by offering healthy, affordable and sustainable diets in a fair system for all members.
In this context, the strategy of the Farm to the table arises to achieve a sustainable diet (From farm to fork). It is one of the initiatives of the European Union to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 within the so-called European Green Deal (European Green Deal). The Farm to Table strategy contemplates the production of food with a neutral or positive environmental impact while ensuring food safety, nutrition and people’s health within a framework of affordable and profitable prices. In it, European farmers, ranchers and fishermen are recognized as key actors to achieve climate change and preserve biodiversity, and a marketing environment is promoted through short channels, betting on the mitigation of climate change and the reduction or elimination of food waste.
The ultimate goal of this strategy is to achieve a fair, healthy and sustainable food system in which safe, nutritious and quality food is produced while minimizing the impact on nature. All of this aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Maybe today is a good day to write our letter of wishes; Dear food system, I want to meet you more sustainable and healthy. To act in favor of change and reduce the impact on climate change, I am committed to making better choices about my food and to contributing with all the small actions that are in my power.
There is no doubt that by choosing a healthier and more sustainable diet we are consciously contributing to change. Choosing foods that have a lower footprint (carbon, water or ecological) contributes to a reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases and, therefore, to slow down global warming. In addition to the lower impact on the environment, we get a greater benefit on our health since we obtain a more balanced diet. By eating a varied diet or choosing seasonal products or less processed foods, we can also reduce our carbon footprint. Small actions such as consuming tap water, planning the purchase, cooking in a traditional way or properly preserving food, contribute positively.
We are increasingly aware of the food that we eat, the nutrition intake that food brings and the impact of our shopping and consumption habits have on the planet. That is as it should be.
The food we consume, that is, ourdietary habits, contributes in one degree or another, to our health, but also, to the planet health by leaving a climatic footprint. Specifically, food production contributes to the effect on global warming through cultivation system, how animals have been raised, how they have been stored, processed, packaged and transported to the different markets around the world.
The current world food production system is affecting the terrestrial and marine ecosystems in a significantly way, thus contributing to the obvious climate change. It is not about being an alarmist, but is about becoming aware of a reality that is already happening.
On 8 august, the new report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 107 experts from 52 countries) on “Climate Change and Earth”. The figures speak in this report and show that the current food system – which includes farming, animal husbandry, processing, packaging and transport – is responsible for the 37 % of the total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) that are generated annually and that, food losses and food waste also collaborates with 8-10 % of the total.
The consequences of these emissions are directly related to the increase of the CO2 level in the atmosphere, the increase in the temperature of the planet, the climatic disasters or the rise in the sea level, which turn into a clear threat to the quality and quantity of current crops. Therefore, affecting food security for the population, for the inhabitants of the planet, for all of us.
It is necessary to address the risks that are already present and reduce vulnerabilities in food production and distribution systems and land management.
According to the data from the IPCC report, climate change will affect food security by limiting access to certain foods, reducing nutritional quality and increasing their prices. The effects will be much more marked in low-income countries.
The Report stated that is necessary limiting global warming to 1.5 oC instead of 2 oC … And yes, this difference of half a degree is crucial on the effects on the soil, marine species and ecosystems and, also about the benefits that this would bring in nature for all humans; fishery, water supply and food insurance, in addition to health, safety and economic growth.
To limit warming, a reduction in CO2 and other GHG emissions is required by 45 % by 2030 (compared to the levels of 2010) and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This requires a profound change and a rapid action in reducing these emissions in all sectors (energy, land, cities, transport, buildings, industry) so is necessary a greater investment in the application of new strategies and technology breakthrough.
With the focus on these actions aimed at adapting and mitigating the effect of climate change, the report indicates as better opportunities; an urgent change in human diet to achieve a reduction in GHG emissions linked to food production, an improvement in livestock and farming production systems to reduce the energy and water consumption currently used and, a reduction, to get eliminate, losses and food waste.
A healthy and sustainable diet includes foods with a lower carbon footprint so that, such diet, would be based on the consumption of vegetables, legumes, cereals, nuts and seeds as essential foods and foods of animal origin produced in resilient, sustainable and low GHG emission systems.
The report expressly states that, currently, livestock systems for meat and meat products production demand more water and soil and generate higher emissions of gases compared to those of cereal and seed production. This effect is greater in developed countries where breeding is carried out intensively and is urged to produce them in a sustainable manner.
In the study carried out by Poore & Nemecek (2018) it was also evidenced that the environmental impact of the production of food of animal origin exceeds that of plant production, highlighting the need to reformulate the practices carried out in this activity . They also showed that, although producers are a vital part of the solution to this problem, their ability to reduce environmental impact is limited. These limits mean that the same product can have a greater impact than another nutritionally equivalent and therefore, they also urge a change in the pattern of the diet.
The need to adapt our diet to the limits of sustainability aspects is evident and, so much so, that the IPCC refers to it as “low-GHG carbon diet”.
Low-greenhouse gases emission diets are balanced diets that require less water and less land use and cause less GHG. These are diets with more foods based on coarse grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables nuts and seeds and foods of animal origin produced in a sustainable way.
Other actions aimed at diversifying the food systems proposed in the report in relation to the form of food generation are; the implementation of integrated production systems, the improvement of broad-genetic resources, more intelligent and integrated agricultural systems, best livestock production practices and the reduction of fertilizers use. All of them, in order to reduce the environmental impact through better soil management as a strategy to achieve sustainable use and, therefore, quality food production.
Regarding the reduction of food waste, it is aimed at curbing the need to produce more and, therefore, to reduce the overexploitation of the soil and the consumption of water and nitrogen-based fertilizers, deforestation of areas to convert them into agricultural land and, in the cycle in which we are currently, worse crops are getting worse, poorer in nutrients and the consequent and foreseeable increase in the cost of cereals.
There is no one ideal solution, but a sum of many different actions.
We need to rethink our current food system and find new solutions to feed ourselves on a planet that continues growing. We are facing the challenge of finding effective solutions to produce food in a sustainable way. The way we produce food matters, in other words how we select what we are going to eat matters since it can face climate change and with the reduction in the pressure we are exerting on the land.
What we eat has a story to tell us … and that story makes us responsible and complicit in those effects. It is important to take a step forward in our diet and start thinking about what we eat beyond the hedonic aspect, since our consumption actions affect the productive capacity of the soil and, therefore, the quality of what is produced and even to the nutritional value of food. On the other hand, raising awareness of a more sustainable diet, in addition to collaborating in mitigating the effects of climate change, probably offers significant positive benefits on human health in the medium term.
Food is a trending topic. It is known that a good diet is that which nutrients and food are properly combined, which allows a good state of health.
However, disorders in the diet are currently a real challenge for public health. The growing figures of obesity and diseases related to food in Spain and the rest of Europe, have promoted public administrations related to nutrition and health, develop agreements with the food industry.
Food and Beverage Industry, the first industrial sector of our country, with a turnover of more than 98 M € and with important growth expectations, is now facing new paradigms and challenges in food policy and nutrition.
Thus, new consumer demands and trends in health have promoted the generation of a strategy to improve the composition of food and beverages by the Spanish Ministry of Health through the Spanish Agency of Consumption, Food Security and Nutrition (AECOSAN) with the voluntary commitment of more than twenty sectorial organizations representing 500 companies of the food and beverages sector.
The so-called Collaboration plan for improving the composition of food and beverages and other measures 2017-2020, is aligned with the policy of reformulation promoted by the European Union through several frameworks created within the High Level Group on nutrition and physical activity with Member States, in which food groups and priority sectors were established.
The PLAN includes the reformulation commitments of the Manufacturing and Distribution sectors for more than 3,500 foods and drinks of habitual consumption in children, young people and families in relation to the reduction of added sugars, salt and saturated fats.
Food reformulation consists of improving the content of certain nutrients selected from food without this leading to an increase in energy content or other nutrients, maintaining food safety, flavor and texture so that the product continues to be accepted by consumers. Therefore, this entail a significant investment.
The most noteworthy commitments are, among others, the following measures that will be carried out on 13 food groups in a maximum period of 3 years:
Reduction of added sugars up to 18% in sauces such as ketchup and fried tomato, 10% in dairy products, soft drinks, meat products, breakfast cereals for children and fruit nectars and 5 % in pastries and cakes, cookies, ice cream and special breads
Reduction of saltup to16% in meat products and sauces, up to 13,8% in salty snacks, 10% for ready-to-eat meals and 6,7% in vegetable creams.
Reduction of saturated fats; 10% in the case of for ready-to-eat meals and salty snacks and 5% in pastries, cakes and cookies
This voluntary commitment of the Food Industry to the reformulation of certain foods has been associated with an important effort on innovation for the identification of new raw materials and ingredients, reformulationand production processes in order to achieve food according to sensory specifications and quality that consumers expect, topics in which we have worked intensively in CARTIF with a large number of companies in the sector.
This PLAN also includes agreements with sectors such catering or retail industry, with which commitments have been made to increase the offer healthier menus and meals, with an increase in the offer of dishes that include vegetables, greater presence of lean meats and fish accompanied by garnishes of vegetables, vegetables and/or legumes and to minimize the offer of fried precooked dishes. Meals will be prepared with griddled, baking and oven and sauces or stir-fry dressings will be avoided. Olive oil will be promoted as the best dressing option. Bread will be whole grain and the main dessert option will be seasonal fruit.
Regarding the Modern Restoration or HORECA sector, commitments have been made related to the reduction of the amount of sugar contained in single-dose sachets to 50 % and 33 % in those of salt, as well as the use of low-fat milk in breakfast services.
Finally, vending or automatic distribution sector commits to reduce the maximum amount of sugar added in hot beverages and to increase the number of balanced foods, water and soft drinks without added sugars of the total of products and beverages included in the machine.
With this PLAN, is intended that the different sectors work synergistically to contribute to a more balanced diet with high nutritional quality. The PLAN also wants to promote R & D aimed at creating healthier products, strengthen the collaboration of companies and promote the coordination of these measures with the administrations, as well as impact, from the health and social point of view, the shopping basket and promote good practices to improve the diet from the nutritional point of view. Through all these measures, it is also intended to contribute to improving the scientific base and collect data that drives these initiatives and their monitoring at European level.
These actions, undoubtedly, represent an advance and we will find food products with a composition, in certain nutrients, improved compared to the current ones. However, it is necessary to continue taking steps on behalf of all the actors involved in promoting health and reducing the appearance of food-related diseases by creating new strategies.
In recent years the definition of the human microbiome has been postulated as an essential tool for medicine, pharmacy, nutrition and other disciplines in order to understand the role of microorganisms present in the body on health and immunity. In fact, the microbiome affects aging, digestion, immune system, mood and cognitive functions.
But, what is the microbiome?
There are different definitions for this term. Generally speaking, we can say that the human microbiome is the set of microorganisms in each person (microbiota)and the genes these cells harbour.
Microbiome research area comprises a field of science associated primarily with advances in DNA / RNA sequencing and computational biology. Thus, the microbiome can be defined as the genomic content of all microorganisms recovered from a habitat or ecosystem (eg saliva, feces or skin).
The study of the microbiome started in the 17th century with the development of the first microscopes and the beginnings of the science of microbiology. However, it has been in recent years when the development of rapid sequencing methods, the reduction of the costs associated with these techniques and the development of data management techniques have been developed which has enabled the microbiome and its constituents.
And why is it important?
Taking into account that the number of microorganisms that we harbour is between 10 and 100 billion (ten times higher than our number of cells), that we can have more than ten thousand different species and that the types of microorganism vary greatly among different people, we can think that the microbiome has a special role in our health. In fact, the knowledge of these microorganisms, the functions of their genes, their metabolic and regulatory pathways is already allowing them to develop strategies to prevent diseases and improve general health.
However, the microbiome of each person is not something static. Nutritional imbalances, lifestyle, use (and abuse) of antibiotics, low exposure to pathogens (or excess of hygiene) permanently modify our microbiome.
And what is your relationship with the diet?
There is a clear relationship between what we eat and the balance of our native flora that has a direct impact on our health status. Indeed, is interesting that changes in diet are always accompanied by changes in the microbiota and the enrichment of their corresponding genes.
Balanced diets can promote a proper and well-structured microbiota and conversely, alterations in the composition of our microbiota or reduction of some of the microorganisms that make up the diversity of the microbiota, increase the risk of suffering from diseases related to lifestyle such as allergies, diabetes, obesity and / or irritable bowel syndrome. In addition, a prolonged state of these situations has been related to metabolic alterations.
Recent studies have shown that there are notable differences in the microbiota of people who follow rich meat diets versus those who follow more ancestral life-styles and diets based mainly on vegetable consumption. There are studies that suggest that a type of diet rich in proteins and animal fat is associated with a particular kind of flora while carbohydrate-rich diets are associated with the prevalence of another type of flora. These differences have been linked to the risk of developing non-communicable diseases such as atherosclerosis.
Over and undernutrition malnutrition has a direct impact on the microbiota that favours alterations of the same that, finally, lead to problems associated with an increase in inflammation and metabolic problems. A strong influence has been observed in nutrient-poor diets, especially those deficient in certain amino acids, in the positive incidence of intestinal inflammation. Likewise, the pathogenesis of various diseases is associated with certain components of the diet that promote disorders in the microbiota.
Therefore, the better balanced the diet, the more diverse the microbiota. Thus, intervention through personalized diets improves the response in individuals with low microbiome richness.
And then, can it be improved?
Of course we can! The importance of food, nutritional balance and life-style have a direct influence on the composition of our microbiota and its activity and, therefore, directly on our health. From this relationship arises the interest to develop new strategies to personalize our diet.
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