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Food plays a central role in people's lives and must not only be seen from a nutritional or health point of view, but also from an environmental, economic, social and cultural angle. The value of food needs to be assessed from both the demand and the supply side and policy measures coordinated accordingly. To facilitate such a comprehensive sustainable food system, the EESC proposes the introduction of new Sustainable Dietary Guidelines.
"What we eat affects our health and our planet. The developing of Sustainable Dietary Guidelines, which we propose in our opinion, will help to promote more sustainable and healthy diets. This is also necessary to achieve the UN Sustainability Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. We need the a paradigm change from enough food to enough sustainable food, and should use the current political momentum - not least the UN Decade on Nutrition - to support better nutrition and healthier diets in Europe", says Peter Schmidt, rapporteur of the own-initiative opinion Promoting healthy and sustainable diets in the EU.
An expert group to develop Sustainable Dietary Guidelines
A sustainable approach implies to look not only at the economic, but also at the social and environmental aspects. It requires policy changes both on the supply and the demand side, a long-term perspective and the developing of shorter and territorial food supply chains.
While different policies, initiatives and guidelines exist at EU level and in the EU Member States, a coordinated approach is missing. The EESC is proposing new EU Sustainability Dietary Guidelines that take into account cultural and geographical differences between and within Member States as a base for a clear, coherent and common framework benefiting both consumers and producers.
"Sustainable Dietary Guidelines would help give a clearer direction to farms, processors, retailers and foodservices. The agri-food system would also benefit from a new framework to produce, process, distribute and sell healthier and more sustainable food at fairer prices," says Maurizio Reale, President of the EESC Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment (NAT).
In order to establish these Europe-wide guidelines, the EESC proposes the creation of an Expert Group, consisting of relevant professionals and scientists from nutrition, public health, food, environmental and social sciences. This group of expert should draw up evidence-based guidelines within two years.
Comprehensive and readable food labelling will empower consumers
"The Sustainable Dietary Guidelines would provide consumers with clear advice on sustainable diets and Member States could use it for healthcare services and public policy institutions. The Sustainable Dietary Guidelines should also serve as the basis for broader food labelling", says Mr Schmidt, pointing to the multiple advantages of improved transparency.
While current policies focus mainly on nutrition and health claims, a clear food labelling system, indicating origin, means of production and the nutritional value of food would empower consumers and facilitate their decisions. Moreover, by successively applying the guidelines in public procurement, the implementation of goal 12.7 of the Agenda 2030 would be ensured. Local producers should be favoured to promote healthy diets and the local economy.
Regarding objections in relation to EU competition law, the EESC proposes to adapt rules in order to help the local economy instead of hindering sustainability.
In its opinion, the EESC also calls for a swift introduction of an EU-wide legislative limit to industrially produced trans-fats in food.