Environmental sustainability in national food-based dietary guidelines: a global review (2022)

Citation: James-Martin G, Baird DL, Hendrie GA, et al. Environmental sustainability in national food-based dietary guidelines: a global review. Lancet Planet Health 2022; 6: e977–86. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(22)00246-7


Food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs) provide country-specific guidance on what constitutes a healthy diet. With increasing evidence for the synergy between human and planetary health, FBDGs have started to consider the environmental sustainability of food choices. However, the number of countries that discuss environmental sustainability in their guidelines is unknown.

The purpose of this Review was to identify countries with government-endorsed FBDGs that made explicit mention of environmental sustainability and to examine the breadth and depth of the inclusion of sustainability in FBDGs. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN identified 95 countries with FBDGs.

We assessed 83 countries against our inclusion criteria, of which 37 mentioned environmental sustainability. Relevant content was assessed against a set of criteria based on the Food and Agriculture Organization’s guiding principles for sustainable healthy diets.

The depth to which environmental sustainability was discussed varied and it was often restricted to general explanations of what a sustainable diet is. Few FBDGs addressed why sustainability is important, how dietary changes can be made, or provided quantified advice for implementing sustainable diets.

Key messages

  • Food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs) are increasingly including content to address the relationship between dietary intake and environmental sustainability. At present, this information is more likely to be reported in background documents than consumer documents, restricting its visibility to users of the consumer documentation.
  • The principles most commonly addressed in FBDGs are associated with culture, inclusion of animal-based and plant-based foods in the diet, environmental effect, biodiversity, and food waste. However, information is general, and practical, specific advice, or quantified recommendations for action are scarce.
  • To achieve the transformation to food systems needed to curb the accelerating environmental decline globally, more countries need to commit to developing FBDGs that explicitly emphasise the crucial link between diet and planetary health and provide specific and practical advice to address these issues.

37 countries with environmental sustainability in their FBDG:

  1. Argentina
  2. Australia
  3. Belgium‡
  4. Brazil
  5. Canada
  6. Colombia
  7. Costa Rica
  8. Denmark
  9. Ecuador
  10. El Salvador
  11. Estonia
  12. Finland
  13. France
  14. Germany
  15. Greece
  16. Guatemala
  17. Iceland
  18. Italy
  19. Japan
  20. Kenya
  21. Malta
  22. Mexico
  23. Netherlands
  24. New Zealand
  25. North Macedonia
  26. Norway
  27. Peru
  28. Poland
  29. Qatar
  30. Sierra Leone
  31. South Africa
  32. Sweden
  33. Switzerland
  34. Türkiye
  35. UK
  36. Uruguay
  37. Venezuela

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