Selvarani Elahi's Posts (39)

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10047999498?profile=RESIZE_710xFood and You 2 is a biannual survey which measures self-reported consumer knowledge, attitudes and behaviours related to food safety and other food issues amongst adults in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The survey is primarily carried out online using a methodology known as ‘push-to-web’.

Fieldwork was conducted between 28 April 2021 and 25 June 2021. A total of 6,271 adults from 4,338 households across England, Wales and Northern Ireland completed the survey.

Topics covered in the Food and You 2: Wave 3 Key Findings report include:

  • Confidence in food safety, authenticity and the food supply chain  
  • Concerns about food  
  • Food security
  • Food shopping and labelling 
  • Online platforms 
  • Food-related behaviours and eating habits. 

 

Main findings

  • Most respondents (90%) reported that they were confident that the food they buy is safe to eat
  • More than 8 in 10 (83%) respondents were confident that the information on food labels is accurate
  • Almost three quarters of respondents (73%) reported that they had confidence in the food supply chain
  • Three quarters (75%) of respondents who had at least some knowledge of the FSA reported that they trusted the FSA to make sure ‘food is safe and what it says it is’
  • Most respondents (80%) had no concerns about the food they eat, and only 20% of respondents reported that they had a concern. The most common prompted concerns, from a given list of food related issues, were related to the amount of sugar in food (63%), and food waste (61%).
  • Across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, 85% of respondents were classified as food secure (72% high, 13% marginal) and 15% of respondents were classified as food insecure (9% low, 6% very low)
  • Most respondents reported that they often check the use-by (84%) or best before (82%) date when they have bought food.
  • Most respondents (83%) who go food shopping and take into consideration a person who has a food allergy or intolerance were confident that the information provided on food labelling allows them to identify foods that will cause a bad or unpleasant physical reaction
  • Around half (52%) of respondents had ordered food or drink via on online ordering and delivery company (for example, Just Eat, Deliveroo, Uber Eats) and 30% had ordered via an online marketplace (for example Amazon, Gumtree, Etsy)
  • Eating habits had changed for most respondents in the last 12 months, with only 19% of respondents indicating that there had been no change in their eating habits

Read final report and technical report.

DOI https://doi.org/10.46756/sci.fsa.ejl793

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UK Food Security Report 2021

9918500874?profile=RESIZE_710x This report is an analysis of statistical data on food security in the United Kingdom.

It is the first in a series of reports which will be published under a new duty in the Agriculture Act 2020 to report to Parliament on food security in the United Kingdom at least once every three years.

The UK Food Security Report (UKFSR) examines past, current, and predicted trends relevant to food security, to present the best available and impartial analysis of food security in the UK, and to lay the groundwork for future Food Security Reports.

Food security is a complex and multi-faceted issue. To address the subject’s many diverse aspects, the UKFSR is structured around five principal ‘themes’, each addressing an important component of modern-day food security in the UK. They are as follows: global food availability, which describes supply and demand issues, trends and risk on a global scale, and how they may affect UK food supply;
UK food supply, which looks at the UK’s main sources of food at home and overseas; supply chain resilience, which outlines the physical, economic, and human infrastructure that underlies the food supply chain, and that chain’s vulnerabilities; household-level food security, which deals with issues of affordability and access to food; and food safety and consumer confidence, which details food crime and safety issues.

The report draws on a broad range of published statistical data from government and other sources. These quantitative sources are supplemented with case studies and qualitative analysis where necessary and helpful. In some cases, where quantitative evidence is not available due to data being limited or confidential, or where the report references recent events which are not yet reflected in published statistics, only qualitative analysis is available.

What is food security?
Food security has many dimensions. As a topic, it encompasses the state of global agriculture and markets on which the UK is reliant; the sources of raw
materials and foodstuffs in the UK and abroad; the manufacturing, wholesale, and retail industries that ultimately bring food to shelves and plates, and their complex supply chains of inputs and logistics; and the systems of inspection that allow consumers to be confident their food is safe, authentic, and of a high standard. 

Accordingly, this report examines the issue of whether the UK is food secure across five ‘themes.’

  • Theme 1: Global Food Availability
  • Theme 2: UK Food Supply Sources
  • Theme 3: Supply Chain Resilience
  • Theme 4: Food Security at Household Level
  • Theme 5: Food Safety and Consumer Confidence: the activities of the Food Authenticity Network and Centres of Expertise are featured in this theme.

Read full report (pdf version) and a fully accessible HTML will be available shortly.

As this is the first in what will be a series of reports to be published, government is very happy to receive written feedback on the content of the UKFSR at foodsecurityreport@defra.gov.uk and there is also an online questionnaire you can find here.

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9850152458?profile=originalThe anticipated failure of many countries to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 necessitates the assessment of science–policy engagement mechanisms for food systems transformation. 

 

A High Level Expert Group (EG) of the European Commission explore options for enhancing existing partnerships, mandates and resources — or reimagining a new mission — for science–policy interfaces in this paper.

The science policy interfaces (SPI) options presented in this paper provide a potential framework to promote consensus around ways to achieve independent scientific interaction with policy needs at different scales. Establishing more effective food systems SPIs will require financial and political capital and time-defined dialogues that go beyond cooperation among existing SPIs to include other actors (including national and regional governments, the private sector and NGOs). These dialogues should be shaped by openness, inclusivity, transparency, scientific independence and institutional legitimacy.

The UN Food Systems Summit held in September 2021 provided some space for this discussion, which should be furthered during the UN Climate Change Conference in the UK (COP26) and Nutrition for Growth in Tokyo. The global community must seize on this historic moment to formulate commitments that enhance SPIs and that concretely help them to support the urgently needed transformation of our food systems.

Read full paper.

 

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EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste

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The most recent estimates of European food waste levels (FUSIONS, 2016) reveal that 70% of EU food waste arises in the household, food service and retail sectors, with production and processing sectors contributing the remaining 30%.

Tackling food waste means working together with all key players from public and private sectors in order to better identify, measure, understand and find solutions to deal with food waste. There is not one single cause with one solution because the food chain is a complex and dynamic system. All actors in the food chain need to work together to find solutions, from farmers, processors, manufacturers and retailers through to consumers themselves. Policy makers, research scientists, food banks and other NGOs also play an important role.

In order to support achievement of the  Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)12.3 target on food waste and maximise the contribution of all actors, the Communication on Circular Economy (2015)Search for available translations of the preceding linkEN••• called on the Commission to establish a Platform dedicated to food waste prevention. Thus the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste (FLW) was established in 2016, bringing together EU institutions, experts from the EU countries and relevant stakeholders selected through an open call for applications. The Platform aims to support all actors in: defining measures needed to prevent food waste; sharing best practice; and evaluating progress made over time.

The EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste will continue to play a key role in mobilising action to reduce food loss and waste across the EU as part of the Farm to Fork StrategySearch for available translations of the preceding linkEN•••. In order to re-establish the Platform and ensure continuity of work as of 2022, the Commission launched a new public call for applications for private sector organisations and invited public entities to join its work for another 5-year term (2022-2026).  Interested organisations were invited to apply until 23 July 2021.

In addition to plenary meetings, the Platform also operates in sub-groups to examine specific aspects and/or questions related to food waste prevention. Four such subgroups have been established to date:

For further information visit the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste.

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9734820469?profile=RESIZE_710xMEPs present plans revamping the EU’s food systems, to produce healthier food, ensure food security, a fair income for farmers and reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint.

Parliament welcomes the Farm to Fork strategy and underlines the importance of producing sustainable and healthy food to achieve the goals of the European Green Deal, including on climate, biodiversity, zero pollution and public health.

MEPs highlighted the need for enhanced sustainability at every step of the food supply chain and reiterated that everyone - from farmer to consumer - has a role to play in this. To ensure that farmers can earn a fair share of the profit made from sustainably produced food, MEPs want the Commission to reinforce efforts - including through the adaptation of competition rules - to strengthen the position of farmers in the supply chain.

Read full article here.

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The Periodic Table of Food Initiative

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Food is at the center of the world’s most urgent challenges and largest opportunities.

According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition is the leading cause of death and disease globally. In fact, there is a “triple burden” of malnutrition at all levels of the population:

  • Undernutrition: The lack of food and/or access to it. 
  • Overnutrition: The consumption of too many calories.  
  • Poor nutrition: Not the right nutritional content (vitamin and mineral deficiencies).

Given advances in the quality and cost of mass spectrometry, bioinformatics, machine learning and big data, along with the growing recognition of the important health impacts of food, the time is ripe for the PTFI.  

The PTFI will strengthen and support ongoing work by developing lowcost mass spectrometry kits, standards, methods, cloud-based analytical tools, and a public database that will include a quantitative and qualitative analysis of 1,000 foods that are representative of geographic and cultural diversity worldwide.

The PTFI will establish a Working Group, composed of experts around the globe, who will inform the selection of the first 2,000 foods based on specific criteria. The overarching goal of this selection process is to ensure inclusivity. The following dimensions we are considering arise out of provocations that help define the plenum of global food options: 

  • Biology: Where in the phylogenetic tree did the organisms that become food originate? 
  • Tissue: What part of organisms are used for food? Entire organisms or portions of plants, animals, or microbes? 
  • Geography: Where do foods originate and where do they thrive? 
  • Consumers: Who are specific foods targeted to? 
  • Processing: Broadly speaking, how are foods treated after “harvest”? 
  • Domestication: How has human intervention modified organisms from their native (wild) state? 
  • Derivation and Formulation: Is the organism (plant, animal, microbe) consumed as a food as is, or is it a derived ingredient in a formulated product or recipe? 
  • Proportional Abundance: From rice to spice – which foods are the center of a meal and the core of a cuisine, and which are tiny fractions of the diet, but can be just as frequently consumed? 
  • Affordability: Which foods are luxury and which are staples? 
  • Frequency: Which foods are consumed on a regular basis and which are associated with rare festive events, life transitions, spiritual celebrations? 
  • Complementarity: Which foods are historically consumed as ensembles? 

Once the database is in place, the scientific community and private sector can build on this public resource by adding analysis of additional foods, varieties, and cooking methods. The PTFI technical platform will enable conditions for a rapid acceleration in research and innovation in both the public and private sectors.

Visit the website for further information.

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The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has released a new IARC Evidence Summary Brief, titled “The Nutri-Score: A Science-Based Front-of-Pack Nutrition Label”. This report, led by scientists from IARC and partners, shows that the Nutri-Score, a clear and simple front-of-pack nutrition label that rates the nutritional quality of food products, is an effective tool to guide consumers towards healthier food choices.

Based on scientific evidence, the IARC Evidence Summary Brief stresses the superiority of the Nutri-Score to other nutrition labels, and calls for its widespread and systematic adoption in Europe and beyond, to help consumers lower their risk of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer.

Read IARC Press Release 301

Read the Evidence Summary Brief about the Nutri-Score 

Read more about the IARC Evidence Summary Briefs series 

 

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9390426074?profile=RESIZE_710xKEY FINDINGS

1 Despite vital emergency measures in place, more people are food insecure now than before the pandemic.
• Pre-pandemic, we saw a rising trend in levels of household food insecurity.But Covid-19 has left more people than before struggling to afford or access a nutritious diet. Emergency interventions appear to have prevented the situation from worsening in recent months but turning off the tap of support risks seeing elevated levels of hunger and deprivation becoming the new normal.
• Despite community and voluntary sector groups heroically stepping in to help millions of vulnerable people, our evidence shows too many food insecure households have struggled to access support. Reliance on overstretched food banks and food aid charities is not a sustainable safety net for individuals and families who can't afford a decent diet. 


2 Households with children have been hit hard, with many children still falling through the cracks in support.
• Households with children have consistently found it harder to put food on the table, particularly lone parents, large families, and low-income families. Recently, slight improvements in levels of moderate/severe food insecurity among households with children suggest targeted policy interventions have mitigated a significant deterioration. But children reporting experiences of mild to severe food insecurity had not improved this January (2021) compared to six months ago.
• Free School Meal vouchers have represented a vital lifeline for eligible children and their families during Covid, but a series of issues with provision during school closure left many eligible children unable to rely on a regular, quality meal. Many children not currently eligible for Free School Meals face the daily stress of not knowing where their next meal comes from. An increased number of children reported they or their families visited a food bank
this Christmas compared to during the summer holidays.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
3 Existing support schemes have made a difference, but gaps have meant many people still struggle to eat adequately.

• Covid-19 has deepened the financial hardship faced by lowincome households and has also created a newly vulnerable group who were financially stable pre-Covid. Households are balancing on a financial tightrope, increasing debt and using up savings to survive. With household budgets on a shoestring, the end of the Furlough Scheme and the proposed cut to the £20 uplift to Universal Credit can only increase the challenges faced by individuals and families already struggling to pay their food bills.


4 Covid-19 has dramatically widened inequalities in food security and nutrition.
• Exposure to food insecurity is not equal across all households. Throughout the crisis, BAME communities have consistently encountered disproportionately higher levels of food insecurity compared with white ethnic groups. Comparing our data to before the pandemic, inequality in food insecurity has widened between those from BAME backgrounds and white ethnic groups.
• Adults with disabilities have also consistently been more acutely affected by food insecurity during the pandemic compared with those without disabilities. Our most recent data show people with severe disabilities have five times greater levels of food insecurity than those without.
• Despite undertaking essential work like stocking our grocery shelves, food sector workers have reported much higher levels of food insecurity than the general population.

Read full report.

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Personalised Nutrition

As individuals seek increasingly individualised nutrition and lifestyle guidance, numerous apps and nutrition programmes have emerged. However, complex individual variations in dietary behaviours, genotypes, gene expression and composition of the microbiome are increasingly recognised. Advances in digital tools and artificial intelligence can help individuals more easily track nutrient intakes and identify nutritional gaps. However, the influence of these nutrients on health outcomes can vary widely among individuals depending upon life stage, genetics and microbial composition. For example, folate may elicit favourable epigenetic effects on brain development during a critical developmental time window of pregnancy. Genes affecting vitamin B12 metabolism may lead to cardiometabolic traits that play an essential role in the context of obesity. Finally, an individual's gut microbial composition can determine their response to dietary fibre interventions during weight loss. These recent advances in understanding can lead to a more complete and integrated approach to promoting optimal health through personalised nutrition, in clinical practice settings and for individuals in their daily lives. The purpose of this review is to summarise presentations made during the DSM Science and Technology Award Symposium at the 13th European Nutrition Conference, which focused on personalised nutrition and novel technologies for health in the modern world.

Read full article

 

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Background

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has led to unprecedented changes in the way we live, particularly for people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. People with pre-existing health conditions have been markedly impacted and, in some instances, left unsupported due to reduced provision of routine healthcare services. People living with obesity (PLWO) are identified as at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 infection. Currently, there is a paucity of evidence about the impact of the first COVID-19 lockdown on PLWO, including those accessing weight management and bariatric surgery services (WMS).

Methods

543 adults (16–80 years) with obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2) were recruited between 14th May and 9th July 2020 through social media advertisements, professional and patient obesity organisations and WMS. Participants completed an online survey regarding the impact of the first COVID-19 lockdown upon, mental health, well-being, health-related behaviours, risk mitigating behaviours, access to WMS and weight stigma.

Findings

During the first COVID-19 lockdown, the majority of PLWO reported deterioration of their mental health and health-related behaviours such as diet, physical activity (PA) and sleep. With 55% reporting an unhealthier diet, 61% reduced PA and 80% worsening of their sleep. Higher depression and lower wellbeing scores were found to associate with the greatest adverse impact upon health-related behaviours. PLWO who were attending WMS prior to the first lockdown reported a greater deterioration of their diet, with nearly 50% reporting worsening of their diet and PA worsening compared to PLWO who were not attending WMS. Most participants took two or more risk mitigating actions (73%). PLWO attending WMS reported reduced access (44%) with insufficient information (49%) from their clinical service providers. The majority of participants reported no change in perceived weight stigma.

Interpretation

This study shows the detrimental impact of the first COVID-19 lockdown on PLWO in relation to health-related behaviours, mental health and access to WMS. Our findings show that PLWO with poor mental health and those attending WMS were most adversely impacted and highlights the need for greater mental health support and continued provision of support from WMS for PLWO during future lockdowns.

Read full article.

 
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Health care providers (HCPs) globally, including dietitians, are encountering genetic testing for personalized nutrition (ie, nutrigenomics) in their clinical practice. Although considerable basic research examining diet–gene interactions exists in the literature, comparatively less knowledge is available regarding the use of nutrigenomics in clinical practice to alter dietary outcomes. Despite this, patients are bringing direct-to-consumer nutrigenomics reports to HCPs for interpretation, and more HCPs are now offering nutrigenomics tests to their patients. However, HCPs currently lack clinical guidance documents in nutrigenomics and several steps are needed before full clinical practice guidelines are developed.

As a first step in these efforts, our objective was to develop a care map to provide HCPs with a tool for considering nutrigenomics in clinical practice based on the current state of knowledge. An Expert Advisory Panel consisting of 6 nutrigenomics researchers, 3 of whom are also registered dietitians (RDs), developed a care map draft while consulting nutrigenomics literature and incorporating the 3 key pillars of personalized nutrition. To optimize generalizability, the draft was reviewed by 12 HCPs with representation from 6 continents (Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America) who have experience using nutrigenomics in their clinical practice. The Expert Advisory Panel revised the care map based on HCP feedback and all members of the Expert Advisory Panel approved the final version. A 4-step care map was developed, with sections related to HCP training in nutrigenomics (Step 1), patient screening, assessment and informed consent (Step 2), providing nutrigenomics in clinical practice (Step 3), and patient follow-up (Step 4). Continuing education was incorporated throughout the care map. A nutrigenomics care map was successfully developed and should be used as a starting point to guide clinical practice. This care map is generalizable to dietetics practice globally.

Read full article.

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Prioritizing Nutrition Security in the US

sliced carrots and green bell pepper on brown wooden chopping board The prevalence of nutrition-sensitive conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes has increased substantially in the US during the past 30 years. These conditions, combined with other diet-related ones such as cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers, are associated with the majority of morbidity, mortality, and health care spending nationally. Simultaneously, income inequality has increased, with accompanying self-reported food insecurity disproportionately affecting individuals with lower incomes. Food insecurity has been defined as the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food, and in 2019 was estimated to affect 10.5% of US households.1 Food insecurity and poor nutrition are closely linked: individuals who report being most food insecure also have higher risks of developing obesity, diabetes, hypertension, coronary disease, stroke, cancer, and associated conditions, even after adjusting for other risks such as age, sex, employment, marital status, race/ethnicity, smoking, insurance status, family size, education, and income.2

For decades, US policies to address hunger and food insecurity have focused largely on providing sufficient calories or quantities of food. However, effectively addressing the current diet-related challenges in the US will require a shift beyond these concepts to the broader concept of nutrition security. Addressing nutrition security, which can be defined as having consistent access, availability, and affordability of foods and beverages that promote well-being and prevent (and if needed, treat) disease, may be the next needed approach to inform clinical care and public policy.

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300#FoodTrustReport.

What's damaging consumer trust? 
Anthony Warner - known as The Angry Chef - says: "there's too much information [about food choices]. It's all very confusing."

In this episode of 
#EITFoodFight, he and Liesbet Vranken explore:

➡️ Food marketing and health claims like 'detox'
➡️ The role of social media influencers
➡️ Where consumers can get trustworthy information.

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Food in a Pandemic report published

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The Food in a Pandemic report, commissioned by the FSA and produced by Demos as part of Renew Normal: The People’s Commission on Life after Covid, looks to understand how a new food environment created during the pandemic has impacted the public’s behaviours and preferences. The research included: a nationally representative survey of 10,069 UK adults, a nationally representative online deliberative method called Polis with 1,006 UK respondents, a series of four deliberative workshops, and an open access survey of 911 adults.

Key findings on the public’s experience during the pandemic 

Food insecurity 

The report shows that people have stepped in to help prevent new forms of food insecurity caused by people self-isolating by offering informal forms of support such as shopping for others   

Findings also show there is a public appetite for the government to take action to help feed those without the means to feed themselves. People also tend to be more supportive of preventative actions for food insecurity, such as ensuring well-paid jobs are available to all. Just under two thirds (63%) agreed in the Polis that ‘it is the government’s responsibility to make sure no-one goes hungry’. 

UK food supply 

It’s reported a significant proportion of the population have bought food more locally or grown more food during the pandemic, reflecting a wider move towards individual self-sufficiency. Many of those who have made this move expect it to continue after the pandemic. 

78% of those surveyed supported the UK keeping its current food quality standards, even if food is more expensive and less competitive in the global market. A similar proportion (82%) also supported maintaining the UK’s current animal welfare standards, when presented with the same trade-off against prices and competitiveness. 

Diet and eating habits 

There has been a complex shift in people’s diets during Covid-19, with more home cooking. Although a third (32%) of respondents in the poll reported eating more healthy main meals, a third (33%) ate more unhealthy snacks. 

Some of the restrictions and public health advice, such as stay at home, might have encouraged more healthy eating. Those who have cooked more or eaten healthier main meals tend to expect this change to continue. However, this is likely to be somewhat dependent on the other changes, such as continued flexible working.  

Read full report.

 

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8634658853?profile=RESIZE_710xTable seeks to facilitate informed discussions about how the food system can become sustainable, resilient, just, and ultimately “good”. We impartially set out the evidence, assumptions, and values that people bring to food system debates. 

Scientific knowledge is necessary for understanding the issues and complexities around healthy and sustainable food. But science alone cannot tell us how to act or what a good and ethical food system is. Making decisions about the food system involves value judgements about what is important and these depend on people’s preferences and visions for the future.

Therefore, we aim to engage with a wide range of stakeholders and perspectives to bring out value-based reflections and to clarify the arguments, assumptions and evidence around issues of concern. 

Table is rooted in academia. We are a collaboration between the University of Oxford, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Wageningen University and Research (WUR). Table is the successor to the Food Climate Research Network, based at the University of Oxford, which for 15 years conducted, synthesised, and communicated research on food sustainability. You can find previous FCRN explainers and FCRN reports on our website.

 

Podcasts

Read more about the podcast and listen to the Trailer episode with Tara GarnettEpisode 1 with Ken Giller on the Food Security Conundrum, and Episode 2: with Rob Bailey on Global Food Trade.

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Context

In England, the majority of adults, and more than a quarter of children aged 2 to 15 years live with obesity or excess weight. From 1992 to 2020, even though the government published 14 obesity strategies in England, the prevalence of obesity has not been reduced. We aimed to determine whether such government strategies and policies have been fit for purpose regarding their strategic focus, nature, basis in theory and evidence, and implementation viability.

Method

We undertook a mixed‐methods study, involving a document review and analysis of government strategies either wholly or partially dedicated to tackling obesity in England. We developed a theory‐based analytical framework, using content analysis and applied thematic analysis (ATA) to code all policies. Our interpretation drew on quantitative findings and thematic analysis.

Findings

We identified and analyzed 14 government strategies published from 1992 to 2020 containing 689 wide‐ranging policies. Policies were largely proposed in a way that would be unlikely to lead to implementation; the majority were not interventionist and made high demands on individual agency, meaning that they relied on individuals to make behavior changes rather than shaping external influences, and are thus less likely to be effective or to reduce health inequalities.

Conclusions

The government obesity strategies’ failure to reduce the prevalence of obesity in England for almost 30 years may be due to weaknesses in the policies’ design, leading to a lack of effectiveness, but they may also be due to failures of implementation and evaluation. These failures appear to have led to insufficient or no policy learning and governments proposing similar or identical policies repeatedly over many years. Governments should learn from their earlier policy failures. They should prioritize policies that make minimal demands on individuals and have the potential for population‐wide reach so as to maximize their potential for equitable impacts. Policies should be proposed in ways that readily lead to implementation and evaluation.

Download open access article here.

 
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A study of the grain trade during 2020 indicates that policies to protect supply chains must be enacted to avoid supply chain shocks such as COVID-19 and locust swarms exacerbating food insecurity in global regions that rely on food imports.

Food insecurity is complex — there is no silver bullet of policy or market intervention that can lead to a situation where all people at all times will have continuous access to healthy, affordable diets. And though global food systems are interdependent and also complex, food insecurity in many regions has been precipitated by pestilence, environmental disaster and conflict. Pestilence is a fatal epidemic or pandemic disease affecting humans, crops or livestock that impacts food supply and production; insect and rodent plagues remain a major threat to human food security1,2,3,4,5. Recently, swarms of locusts larger than any recorded in recent decades detrimentally affected more than 330,000 hectares of land from Ethiopia to India6, whilst the COVID-19 pandemic — and the controls implemented to curb infection rates — affected food production and supply3.

In times of crisis, the demand for staple foods increases in ways that can destabilize local and global supply chains and cause social unrest3,7. In this issue of Nature Food, Falkendal et al.8 quantify wheat, rice and maize supply chain disruption from 2020 locust swarms and COVID-19-related effects on food prices, stock levels, international trade and export restrictions. The study considers two dimensions of food security, first outlined nearly a quarter of a century ago at the World Food Summit in 1996, namely: physical availability of food (production output, stock levels and trade dynamics) and economic and physical access to food (the ability to buy food, for example, ratio of prices to income, and accessible marketing channels). The authors frame their argument in terms of stability and the socio-economic shocks (political instability, unemployment and drastic loss of income) that the COVID-19 pandemic brings with it that will lead to greater food insecurity in the short and medium term.

In their model, Falkendal and colleagues find that export restrictions and precautionary purchasing in response to COVID-19 could destabilize global grain trade, leading to many low- and middle-income countries that rely on grain imports potentially experiencing further food insecurity that exacerbates the effects felt from shocks such as COVID-19 and locust swarms. Thus, protectionist measures initiated by governments, institutions or market actors to secure national food security will affect those who are food vulnerable, and consumer support policy measures should be introduced to mitigate the risk of food insecurity. The authors call for incremental rather than blunt, binary ‘borders open or borders closed’ food security policies, and a need for mutually agreed solutions to address food insecurity — rather than unilateral national decision-making based primarily on self-interest. Whether altruist or self-serving food security policies are implemented by governments and market actors will be demonstrated in practice over the coming months.

The impact of economic stabilization policies following the 2007 economic crash highlights how individuals and households can transition instantly from a higher standard of living into a situation where they must survive with less, raising the question as to what is the minimum standard for an acceptable life9. In the UK, the last time minimum standards with regard to food for an acceptable life were determined was the food rationing legislation on 15 September 194110 — the Hansard report makes challenging reading when comparing the proposed austere diet to our typical food consumption in the UK. The UN Sustainable Development Goals also determine the dynamics of an acceptable life, and multi-level consensus building and action is essential to safeguard food supply – especially if, as a global community, we seek to deliver the two targets of “no poverty and zero hunger”. Despite having policy and technological tools to reduce the impact of many human, zoonotic and plant diseases, collective strategic risk at local, regional and global levels cannot be ignored. Falkendal and colleagues have shown that a proactive strategy and a co-ordinated collective response with shared goals and co-operative actions is necessary as the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and natural events such as locust swarms arise in order to ensure that the grain trade remains stable, equitable and accessible to all.

Download PDF.

 

 

 

 

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EFSA has developed a tool to help food business operators decide when to apply the ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date to their products.

The ‘use by’ date on food is about safety – foods can be eaten until this date but not after, even if they look and smell fine. ‘Best before’ refers to quality – the food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. For example, its flavour and texture might not be as good.

The European Commission estimates that up to 10% of the 88 million tonnes of food waste generated annually in the EU is linked to date marking on food products.

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The climate emergency is recognised as one of the greatest threats to our planet. The UK government is participating in global efforts to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C and has set legislative targets for the UK to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. UK retailers recognise and support the need for urgent action and have come together through the BRC to draw up this Climate Action Roadmap with the aim of accelerating progress towards a net zero retail industry.

The Roadmap provides retailers with guidance on the steps they can take to decarbonise their operations and supply chains. It gives retailers tools to plot their own journey to net zero, with the needs of their customers, employees and business at the centre. The Roadmap also provides clear directions in order to allow retail industry suppliers, business partners and other stakeholders to take action to decarbonise their own activities.

The aim of the roadmap is that by 2040, every UK consumer can make purchases – in store and online – safe in the knowledge that they are not contributing to climate change.

Download the Executive Summary here, email climate@brc.org.uk to learn how to get involved, and read on for more detail.

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Never has the role of chief medical officer (CMO) been under such scrutiny. In a rare interview, England’s CMO Professor Chris Whitty speaks to The BMJ’s editor in chief, Fiona Godlee, about the pandemic and what it’s like to be a physician in Whitehall

This interview was conducted on 28 October and has been edited for length and clarity.

Chris Whitty as the chief medical advisor to the UK government and has played a pivotal role in shaping the country's response to Covid-19 and in this conversation he gives an important insight into managing the risks and how the pandemic will impact us over the winter.


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