Sustainable healthy diets – Guiding principles (2019)

Acknowledging the existence of diverging views on the concepts of sustainable diets and healthy diets, countries have requested guidance from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) on what constitutes sustainable healthy diets. The two organisations jointly held an international expert consultation on Sustainable and Healthy Diets from 1 to 3 July 2019 at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, to address these issues.

The Consultation agreed on guiding principles for what constitutes “Sustainable Healthy Diets”. This comes at a time when the debate around the sustainability of diets is high on the agenda of governments, international organisations, civil society organisations, the private sector and academia.

These guiding principles take a holistic approach to diets; they consider international nutrition recommendations; the environmental cost of food production and consumption; and the adaptability to local social, cultural and economic contexts. At the Consultation the experts agreed on the term “Sustainable Healthy Diets” which encompasses the two dimensions – sustainability and healthiness of diets. Countries should decide on the trade-offs according to their situations and goals.

These guiding principles emphasize the role of food consumption and diets in contributing to the achievement of the SDGs at country level, especially Goals 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger), 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality) and 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and 13 (Climate Action).

This publication on Sustainable Healthy Diets – Guiding principles (2019) aims to support the efforts of countries as they work to transform food systems to deliver on sustainable healthy diets.

Farm to Fork strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system (EU, 2020)

The Farm to Fork Strategy is part of the European Green Deal aiming to make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly. Food systems cannot be resilient to crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic if they are not sustainable. We need to redesign our food systems which today account for nearly one-third of global GHG emissions, consume large amounts of natural resources, result in biodiversity loss and negative health impacts (due to both under- and over-nutrition) and do not allow fair economic returns and livelihoods for all actors, in particular for primary producers. Putting our food systems on a sustainable path also brings new opportunities for operators in the food value chain. New technologies and scientific discoveries, combined with increasing public awareness and demand for sustainable food, will benefit all stakeholders.

The Farm to Fork Strategy aims to accelerate our transition to a sustainable food system that should:

  • have a neutral or positive environmental impact
  • help to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts
  • reverse the loss of biodiversity
  • ensure food security, nutrition and public health, making sure that everyone has access to sufficient, safe, nutritious, sustainable food
  • preserve affordability of food while generating fairer economic returns, fostering competitiveness of the EU supply sector and promoting fair trade