World Food Day - Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition

The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) and its members, join the FAO World Food Day 2013 in supporting all efforts to make our food systems sustainable, fit for purpose in the current economic, social and health climate. The current debate in Europe is worrisome as the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) reform negotiations are disappointingly misaligned with, and not up to reality of soaring food poverty and food waste, a high prevalence of diet-related diseases and health inequalities, in particular among the most vulnerable groups such as low-income families, children, the elderly, migrants or the Roma. In this context, the issues of access, availability and acceptability of healthy food and nutritional efficiency have also become more apparent but not addressed by the food system, not the policies that govern it.

“Everybody needs to eat and whether and what we eat is subject to political choices. Current policy that governs what, how and by whom that food is produced and consumed is of touch with current social and health outcomes, and conditions in which the majority of people live. The focus remains on food productivity and the competitiveness of the food industry, which ignores the reality of 43 million of people in Europe, who face the choice of cutting their daily fresh fruit and vegetables’ consumption by one-third because it is no longer affordable,” said Monika Kosinska, Secretary General of EPHA. “Not to mention those of us who have nothing or very little to eat at all,” she added.

EPHA and its members call for an integrated, coherent and sustainable system that puts food security and nutrition quality at its heart (as presented in EPHA Paper on a Sustainable Food System). Europe needs a food policy that delivers against a broader set of objectives – beyond creating economic advantage for a few. Healthy people depend on healthy food systems where healthy food (eg. fresh fruit and vegetables) is accessible, affordable and available, and the production, consumption and marketing of unhealthy food are discouraged. This must be realised along the whole food supply chain from primary producers, through processors, manufacturers, retailers, advertisers and consumers.

“It is imperative that given the current challenges, our food system – all its parts – delivers not just food but good, nutritious food. The occasions like this year’s World Food Day and its theme give us the impetus to urgently fix and reframe the way we feed ourselves, our children and families” pointed out Dr Christopher Birt from the North of England EU Health Partnership. “But this cannot be achieved when policy makers create and support conditions which favour the economic interests of Big Food, Big Soda and Big Agri. We need ambitious and brave policy-makers to reclaim what was once about food to bring about the change we so urgently need” he stated.

A transition towards sustainable diets and food systems will only succeed when supported by a farming system that can ensure adequate diets for all, is ecologically sustainable and supportive of the livelihoods of farmers and rural communities.

- [Joint press release] Healthy people depend on healthy food systems (pdf)

Monika Kosińska Secretary General, European Public Health Alliance

Joao Nabais President, International Diabetes Federation Europe

Christopher Birt North of England EU Health Partnership

- Notes to the editor

(1) EPHA Paper on a Sustainable Food System

(2) One of the main features of material deprivation is the inability to access appropriate quantities and quality of food. The share of the EU population unable to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day – something which is defined as a basic need by the World Health Organisation – was 8.7% in 2010, i.e. more than 43 million people. The first figures available for 2011 indicate a worsening situation.

(3) WHO Director-General addresses health promotion conference: Dr Margaret Chan Director-General of the World Health Organization Opening address at the 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion, Helsinki, Finland, 10 June 2013.

[Media Statement] Lost opportunity to recognise public health and nutrition dimension of European farming and rural development policy. Chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), overweight and obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and mental health disorders pose the greatest threat to health and are a major barrier to sustainable economic and inclusive growth in Europe. Diet, along with physical activity, alcohol and tobacco consumption is one of the leading modifiable risk factors for NCDs.

- Contact information

Javier Delgado Rivera, EPHA Communications Coordinator at or +32(0) 2 230 3076

Last modified on October 16 2013.