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Sustain / Agri-Food Network

Meeting 6: The implications of diet and health recommendations for the food supply in Europe

Held on 16th June 2004 at Sustain, 94 White Lion Street, London N1

Charlie Clutterbuck - Environmental Practice at Work
Michael Crawford - Institute of Brain Chemistry, London Metropolitan University
Jane Eastham - Sheffield Hallam University
Ulla Gustasson - Surrey University
Vicki Hird - Sustain
Karen Jochelson - Kings Fund
Mike Joffe - Imperial College
Tim Lang - Chair of meeting; City University
Tim Lobstein - International Obesity Task Force/Food Commission
Jeanette Longfield - Sustain
Richard Longhurst - consultant/McCarrison Society
Jenny Morris - Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
Amy Peterson - City University
Jim Sumberg - East Anglia University
Bruce Traill - Reading University
Marjon Willers - Food Commission


  1. Prof. Bruce Traill Professor of Agricultural Economics at Reading University - 'The changing structure of diets in the EU in relation to healthy eating guidelines'
    PDF Icon Download as PDF - 1129kb
  2. Dr Tim Lobstein International Obesity Task Force and the Food Commission - 'Suppose we all ate a healthy diet…could our food supplies cope?'
    PDF Icon Download as PDF - 36kb

Points of discussion

  • There are clear discrepancies between food availability figures and food intake figures from consumption surveys. Availability figures may include home-grown food and produce not commercially traded.
  • There is some evidence of convergence of dietary patterns across Europe, with the south moving towards more to northern diets, but also northern diets becoming more southern.
  • Fruit and vegetable availability has increased in Europe, but there is no good data on the proportion that is processed, versus fresh produce.
  • How much land do we need to produce the food we need (rather than currently eat)? The 2003 report for the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) by Reading University gives interesting calculations of how a health-oriented agriculture would mean significant changes for producers, notably of fats, meat, sugar etc. But this study did not look at fruit and veg.
  • Europe is facing a 'wall' of supply, i.e. overproduction, in part due to liberalised trade patterns. This is not being checked by appropriate demand signals, or by mal-distribution of opportunities and agricultural development.
  • Tim Lobstein presented a 10-point plan for what needs to change. There was discussion of whether the priority ought to be CAP reform or demand side measures (e.g. fiscal measures to adjust market prices). Also how to can policy drivers be made to converge i.e. public health with sustainable land use with rural development with farm incomes….
  • There is a need to unpack 'consumer' household purchase information. How do we do this and how do we pin down what the drivers for dietary shifts are - why are people moving from one dietary pattern to another?
  • There is a need to engage with bodies such as the Agriculture Economics Society, which tend to be pro liberalisation and do not generally consider sustainability or dietary/health issues. A mutual exchange might be interesting: ecological health people to hear their views, and they to consider the sustainability issues of production patterns and supply, and the health dynamics of diet.
  • The issue of the costs and benefits of food related ill-health needs more focus. Currently the costs are borne by the public e.g. via health care costs, whereas the benefits e.g. of selling drugs, surgical equipment and junk food, go to private companies.
  • What issues might unblock the logjam in this area? Suggestions included:
    • another fuel/energy crisis. If fuel/energy reflected true costs more accurately, the food and agriculture system would be transformed.
    • continued rise in childhood obesity rates. This has attracted considerable political attention, but has not yet led to action.
    • rising mental health problems and clearer links with food. This does not yet feature on the political radar.
    • Water shortages. Like fuel/energy costs and availability, water shortages could transform the food and agriculture system.

Agri-Food Network: The Agri-Food Network was launched jointly by Sustain and the Department of Health Management & Food Policy, City University in 2001 to link academics working on food and farm policy with each other and with those NGOs and think tanks which are using and commissioning research to underpin policy advocacy work.

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