`Ev­ery stage of food pro­duc­tion and consumption af­fects en­vi­ron­ment'

Down to Earth - - FOOD POLICY -

Laura MacCleery, chief reg­u­la­tory af­fairs lawyer, Cen­tre for Science in the Pub­lic In­ter­est, de­codes what the new rec­om­men­da­tions on en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity of diet mean for the US. Ex­cerpts How im­por­tant do you think is the in­clu­sion of en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able diet in the 2015 US di­etary guide­lines? The anal­y­sis of sus­tain­abil­ity by the Di­etary Guide­lines Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee (DGAC) in 2015 was both ap­pro­pri­ate and im­por­tant as a corol­lary con­sid­er­a­tion to the di­etary rec­om­men­da­tions. It is ob­vi­ous that food and diet have an enor­mous im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment. Food pro­duc­tion pro­duces chem­i­cal runoff in wa­ter sup­plies, soil ero­sion, and in the case of fac­tory cat­tle farming oper­a­tions, large-scale methane emis­sions. Pro­cess­ing of foods is an in­dus­trial process, pro­duc­ing large amounts of waste and pol­lu­tants that con­trib­ute to global warm­ing and lower air qual­ity. Trans­porta­tion of foods to re­tail­ers, sim­i­larly, pol­lutes. Food pack­ag­ing adds to the waste bur­den and costs of dis­posal. Th­ese are only some en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­fects—ev­ery stage of the food pro­duc­tion and consumption process af­fects the en­vi­ron­ment in some way. It is, there­fore, an ap­pro­pri­ately em­bed­ded con­cern when we dis­cuss a healthy diet. How dif­fer­ent are the cur­rent DGAC rec­om­men­da­tions from the pre­vi­ous ones? In many ways, the di­etary rec­om­men­da­tions of­fered by the guide­lines have re­mained con­sis­tent for decades. Guide­lines have long ad­vised a diet higher in fruits, veg­eta­bles, and whole grains. The core rec­om­men­da­tions of the 2015 DGAC are sim­i­lar to the 2010 DGA.

How­ever, 2015 DGAC Re­port of­fers more prac­ti­cal rec­om­men­da­tions. It of­fers sug­ges­tions on how to ac­tu­ally im­ple­ment and pro­mote di­etary ad­vice, such as the rec­om­men­da­tions for sugar taxes or elim­i­na­tion of sug­ary bev­er­ages from schools. The re­port also in­cludes com­mon sense ad­vice, such as us­ing meal­times to model healthy eat­ing pat­terns for chil­dren or ad­vis­ing daily ex­er­cises for el­derly peo­ple to avoid falls and main­tain men­tal acu­ity. In ad­di­tion, the DGAC advises com­pa­nies to im­ple­ment well­ness pro­grammes, and schools to in­crease nu­tri­tion ed­u­ca­tion. In a let­ter to the US Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, a se­na­tor has said that DGAC has over-stepped its role in talk­ing about en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able diet. Is that so? The 2015 DGAC sim­ply advises a di­etary pat­tern that it be­lieves will pro­vide long-term food sus­tain­abil­ity. Food in­dus­try play­ers may fear any anal­y­sis of foods for their en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact; be­cause such an anal­y­sis could ex­pose some pro­cessed foods or fac­tory farm-sourced meats as pos­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards or other un­due en­vi­ron­men­tal costs.

For­com­pletein­ter­view,lo­gonto www.down­toearth.org.in ed the food items that should be eaten, and not the nu­tri­ents.Car­los Mon­te­rio,a nu­tri­tion ex­pert and one of the for­mu­la­tors of the Brazil­ian guide­lines, says that the new guide­lines are a way to pre-empt the dis­ap­pear­ance of tra­di­tional and lo­cal di­etary habits and to en­sure that consumption of sug­ary drinks and ul­tra-pro­cessed foods does not im­pact the di­etary pat­terns in Brazil, like it did in the US.

Apart from ad­vo­cat­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity,the guide­lines also de­vised the con­cept of “ul­tra pro­cessed foods” to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them from min­i­mally pro­cessed ones in terms of nu­tri­ent and health ef­fects.With Brazil strug­gling with a nu­tri­tional anom­aly—mal­nu­tri­tion on one hand, and ris­ing obe­sity on the other—the new guide­lines seem to be a timely in­ter­ven­tion.

But like US, the new guide­lines faced re­sis­tance in Brazil too.“Dur­ing pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions, they (man­u­fac­tur­ers of ul­tra-pro­cessed foods) crit­i­cised al­most ev­ery guide­line rec­om­men­da­tion and even tried to stop the pro­mul­ga­tion of the guide­lines, but with no suc­cess,” says Mon­te­rio.

Ex­pe­ri­ences in In­dia

In In­dia, the is­sue has had its share of con­tro­ver­sies. In 2014, the Food Safety and Stan­dards Author­ity of In­dia (fssai) set-up an ex­pert com­mit­tee to frame junk food guide­lines for schools af-

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