Newsletter 226 - Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems

Health-EU Newsletter 226 - Focus

You are what you eat – and Healthy and Sustainable European Food Systems can help!

Dr Karin Schindler, Head of Unit for maternal, paediatric and gender-related health and nutrition at the Austrian Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Safety, talks about the recent conference organised by her ministry as part of the Austrian EU Presidency on the theme of ‘Healthy and Sustainable European Food Systems’ and explains why the subject is such an important and timely one.

In Europe, the number of those suffering from non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease and cancer is increasing. These diseases, like overweight and obesity, are associated with the dietary habits and physical activity of those affected. Many eat too often and too much of processed foods that contain a lot of sugar, fat and/or salt. In addition, many of the commonly consumed foods leave a significant environmental footprint.

The offer is the sum of socioeconomic, socio-political and economic factors in the food system. Individual, "stand alone" communication and awareness campaigns about making the healthy choice the easy choice were not successful. We are therefore convinced that there should be more dialogue and cooperation between all those involved in the food system, the health and sustainability sectors.

The aim of the interactive and interdisciplinary conference was to show, on the one hand, how promising and best practice examples of how cooperation in various settings can succeed, and, on the other hand, to foster dialogue between the actors of the food system and the health sector.

The Austrian Federal Ministry has invited other European national ministries, such as those representing agriculture, health and the economy, to continue to work together for a healthy and sustainable food system based on a "Roadmap towards healthy and sustainable European food systems".

How were the best practices identified and selected?

Thankfully, the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety has supported us in the search and evaluation of the practices in many ways.

As a first step, we have jointly made and communicated a call for practice submission through DG SANTE's new portal for best practice examples. We received a total of 33 submissions. The applications were evaluated on the basis of a set of criteria from experts from the various areas of the food system and then discussed at a meeting at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. In the next step, we invited a total of ten practice owners to present their practices at the conference. In order to promote mutual learning, the practices were discussed in small groups. The best practical examples found through this call are now also published on the DG SANTE Portal and are thus accessible to the general public.