Better diets: What's the EU cooking?

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Better diets: What's the EU cooking?

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Governments in rich and poor countries face the common challenge of getting their citizens to switch to a healthier and more sustainable diet. Most people in the West consume too-high levels of protein, fat, sugar and salt which can cause cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Despite more than a decade of government efforts to try and change the way people eat, obesity rates across Europe remain stubbornly high, and are even increasing among children. Significantly, while many people in developing countries struggle to meet their basic food needs, obesity is also rising among segments of the population.

There is little doubt that the Western diet puts pressure on natural resources, speeding up climate change and biodiversity loss, while also undermining future food security. In Europe alone, the food system accounts for almost a third of the EU’s consumption related greenhouse gas emissions. A recent European Commission consultation on food sustainability showed that EU stakeholders believe this dietary trend is no longer an option from a social, environmental and economic point of view.

Achieving a more sustainable food system requires a collaborative approach and a comprehensive policy package. To what extent is the existing EU policy framework fit for purpose in terms of health and agricultural policies? Have public food and nutrition policies in EU Member States had a positive impact on European dietary habits? Is healthy food just too expensive for consumers? What policies will be most effective in addressing future nutritional challenges? What is the role of civil society and the private sector in promoting sustainable eating patterns? What are the social and economic costs and benefits of adopting sustainable diets? How can people be helped to choose healthy and sustainable diets amid widespread confusion on the quality, health and nutritional benefits of foods?

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