The EU agro-food sector now delivers an amazing variety of products from all over the EU and the globe to consumers, creates convenience, innovates, cushions risks to producers and creates jobs in rural and urban areas. Access to safe and nutritious food is not however guaranteed for all Europe’s consumers as quality and safety have sometimes been compromised, and there is an increasing awareness of food poverty across some sections of society. Environmental concerns have also escalated.
Further, short-term food crises (due to e.g. weather extremes or financial downturns) need to be guarded against, and the growing pressures on the natural resource base upon which food and nutrition security (FNS) depends need to be reduced. Strengthening FNS in the EU will, however, require more than overcoming the challenges in production. It goes hand in hand with the need to ensure more adequate diets for EU consumers. The envisioned future European diets will need to contribute effectively to reversing the increasing trend in overweight and obesity, and to reducing the disease burden due to diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cardiovascular and malignant disease. They must also be affordable to consumers in less privileged socioeconomic strata across all sub-regions in the EU, withstand food crises and accommodate cultural diversity.
Enhanced FNS is needed, built on a scientific evidence-base and accounting for the perspectives of the producers and the actors in the food chain, as well as the factors that determine the actual dietary pattern of EU citizens. To gauge what policy reforms may best serve the upcoming challenges, a new conceptual approach is needed that explicitly shows how the food that is produced better matches consumption needs and maintains health; and how this improved understanding can enhance FNS in a more sustainable way. This has led to the development of a multidisciplinary research program SUSFANS, which studies
metrics, integrates modelling and develops foresight for European sustainable FNS.
SUSFANS’ overall objective is to build the conceptual framework, the evidence base and analytical tools for underpinning EU-wide food policies with respect to their impact on consumer diet and their implications for nutrition and public health in the EU, the environment, the competitiveness of the EU agri-food sectors, and global food and nutrition security.