A new report published jointly by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) at the University of Oxford in May, makes a case for addressing sustainability and climate change when promoting good nutrition. One of the key conclusions of the Plates, Pyramids, Planet report is the observation –founded on a growing body of research– that what we eat matters not just for our health, but for the planet, too. If we are to address the multiple social, health and environmental challenges caused by food systems, global populations need to move towards dietary patterns that are both healthy and also respectful of environmental limits. As such, an integrated understanding of what such diets look like is needed, as is action to foster the necessary shifts in consumption.
To this end, the report evaluates government-issued food guidelines from across the globe, looking in particular at whether they make links to environmental sustainability in addition to promoting good eating habits. The study finds that only a handful of forward thinking governments have issued guidelines promoting “win-win” diets that can help tackle securing good nutrition while simultaneously addressing climate change. It examines what these guidelines say, identifies common messages, and considers whether and how their approaches could be replicated elsewhere.
At the same time the report also looks at failures – where attempts to provide integrated guidance have failed, and why. In order to support countries in taking steps to incorporate environmental considerations into their food guidelines, the report concludes with a series of suggestions for ways forward.