Improving Nutrition in Food Supply chains

Solutions discussed:

The adoption of a diet that meets nutritional needs while staying within planetary boundaries

The EAT Lancet commission developed a diet that meets human nutritional needs, while remaining within planetary boundaries, which is named the Planetary Health Diet. The diet puts a large emphasis on plant products, and alters the traditional nutritional 'pie chart' or healthy-eating plate, suggesting that humans consume a greater proportion of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and plant proteins, with more limited animal proteins, dairy, oils and sugars. Notably, the Planetary Health Diet calls for a reduction of 50% of red meat and sugars.

Presented by: Riaz Bhunnoo, Director of the Global Food Security Programme, UK

EAT-Lancet planetary health diet 

The use of biofortification of crops to manage malnutrition

Four methods are available to manage malnutrition: supplementation, diet diversification, fortification of foods with vitamins and minerals and biofortification. Biofortification occurs when micronutrients are bred into crops through selective or traditional breeding processes, or, alternatively, through genetic modification techniques, a potentially powerful new solution as it does not require significant behaviour change on behalf of populations as some of the other solutions do. Where used in staple crops, biofortification can significantly improve the micronutrient intake of populations. A further advantage is that farmers can replant from the seeds of biofortified crops, and the subsequent harvests will remain micronutrient dense. This makes biofortification a low-cost solution once the original crop strain has been created. HarvestPlus is an organisation that works on scaling up the production of bio-fortified crops. HarvestPlus have worked on a number of projects including on vitamin-A enriched Maize in Zimbabwe, on iron-rich beans in Uganda and on zinc-rich wheat and rice in Bangladesh. High levels of advocacy and stakeholder engagement must be involved in this approach, in order to assure farmers that they will receive a good yield, and consumers that the product is healthy, safe and nutritionally viable.

Presented by: Professor Nicola Lowe, Professor of Nutritional Sciences, University of Central Lancashire

HarvestPlus fighting hidden hunger 

Use of a salt and sugar reformulation tax to improve diet quality in the UK

The use of a salt and sugar reformulation tax is one of the leading recommendations put forward by the UK National Food Strategy, which proposes a £3/kg tax on sugar and a £6/kg tax on salt in processed foods and out-of-home catering services like restaurants. The Soft Drinks Industrial Levy is a form of such a tax that has already proven to have significant health benefits. Furthermore, modelling by researchers behind the National Food Strategy suggests that there would be enormous savings in terms of years of life that are normally lost to diet-related illness or disease in the UK by implementing such a tax, with some 37,000-97,000 years of healthy life saved per year compared to the current state of play. Though fiscal measures often prove unpopular with businesses and the public, they are less unpopular where earnings are earmarked to be used for a positive cause related to the tax. For example, in the case of a salt and sugar tax, the revenue could be used to support low income households in attaining nutritionally balanced diets. This measure is part of the National Food Strategy's suggestions to 'escape the junk food cycle and protect the NHS' in the UK.

Presented by: Henry Dimbleby, Co-founder of Leon restaurant chain and Co-founder and Director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, UK

National Food Strategy

Food Foundation Policy Briefing

Supporting the lowest-income sectors of society to access nutritionally balanced food through benefits and incentives

This solution can be achieved in two ways. The first involves providing healthy, nutritious and balanced food to families through incentives such as free school meals, holiday food programmes for children during school holidays, and the use of programmes such as 'Healthy Start' (which helps low-income families with young children, and pregnant mothers, to pay for cows milk, formula and fruits and vegetables). The second option is to increase the benefits that low-income families receive, so that they are able to spend a greater proportion of their income on nutritious food. Both of these measures are needed to support low-income families to eat nutritionally balanced diets.

Presented by: Henry Dimbleby, Co-founder of Leon restaurant chain and Co-founder and Director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, UK

Use of QR Code technology to improve the accessibility of food labels

Food labels provide invaluable nutritional information to the consumer. Furthermore, there is now an increasing call for food labels to include environmental information, such as the amount of carbon that producing a certain food has generated, in order to increase consumer understanding of the environmental impact of their food choices. However, there are a number of issues with such an approach. Food labels can become confusing if they are laden with too much information, in a limited amount of space, and in a small font. Then, it becomes unrealistic to expect consumers to decipher these when they are rushing, or looking to make a quick purchase in a shop or supermarket. What is needed is a simple, transparent approach to providing nutritional and sustainability information about food. Technology can provide solutions to these issues. One innovative solution to this problem is to make use of scannable QR codes on food labels, which consumers can scan to retrieve a wealth of detailed information about the food product, including its sustainability credentials. This prevents crowded labels, while providing  the depth of information that consumers deserve to have access to when shopping for food.   
Presented by: Professor Robin May, University of Birmingham/Food Standards Agency, UK

Provision of sustainability and dietary requirement filters on online shopping platforms.  

Many shoppers use online shopping platforms or apps to order groceries, as well as take-away food. In order to provide a clearer way of communicating the sustainability and dietary credentials of food products to consumers, and to facilitate the search for foods with certain credentials, online platforms can make use of search filters for these categories. As such, shoppers could pre-load requirements into the platforms, such as 'vegan' or 'low-carbon' or 'gluten free', manipulating the results that they would receive.  
Presented by: Professor Robin May, UoB/ Food Standards Agency, UK. 

Prioritise lower carbon diets including the use of alternative proteins

While there is no 'silver bullet' solution to managing the nutritional and sustainability challenges that face modern diets, one solution that can be taken in this field is to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables that are consumed in modern diets, and also to increase the amount of alternative proteins that are consumed. This would reduce the amount of meat and dairy that is eaten, these being large causes of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as freeing up grazing land that could be used to sequester carbon. There is a particularly large and growing market for alternative proteins, which include cellular meat grown in laboratories; fermented proteins made from genetically modified bacteria; and meat-style products that are made from vegetable sources, such as vegetable burgers. Of late there have been improvements in the texture and nutritional profile of alternative protein sources, as well as a greater understanding of how such products can fit into human diets. They should be better integrated into modern diets as a sustainability solution. 
Presented by: Tess Kelly, Head of External Engagement, Quorn, UK and Henry Dimbleby, Co-founder of Leon restaurant chain and Co-founder and Director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, UK. 

Use advertising and marketing channels to promote nutritious food choices

Advertising of calorie-dense food is often seen as a marketing problem that contributes to high-calorie diets in the Global North, and this has been proved by high-profile studies. However, advertising can also be used as a force for good, and as a catalyst to encourage healthier choices. The food industry can use this as a solution to market more nutritious products that contribute to healthier diets and tell new stories about food. 
Presented by: Tess Kelly, Head of External Engagement, Quorn, and Professor Robin May, UoB/ Food Standards Agency, UK