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Food and climate change

Food is ‘a public health issue concerned with climate change and environmental health’
Food and climate change

In a new briefing, public health charity Medact and Eating Better (a 50 organisation-strong alliance for healthy, sustainable diets) are calling for more to be done to promote the key health and sustainability message to reduce meat and dairy consumption and eat more plant-based foods.

Changing diets

The call comes as new government-funded research shows that two-thirds (66%) of the adults in a UK-wide survey who agree that human behaviour is causing climate change also agree that we could significantly reduce the impact of climate change if we all made changes to our diets.

On top of that, 65% of all adults surveyed said they would like to receive more information on climate change and the food system.

Yet in an analysis of national dietary guidelines, Medact and Eating Better found that a number of other countries, including Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany, have gone further than the UK’s Eatwell Guide in promoting sustainability messaging in their national dietary guidelines.

‘For the health community, food is no longer simply an issue of healthy diets. It is also a public health issue concerned with climate change and environmental health.

‘The food on our plates not only impacts our individual health, but also has significant implications for the health of the planet upon which human health is reliant, and for our ability to feed current and future generations equitably.’

Director of Medact

Emissions from livestock

The briefing paper highlights that our food system contributes significantly to climate change through greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and impacts negatively on ecosystems, including through deforestation, water use, overfishing, pollution and biodiversity loss.

Meat and dairy foods carry a particularly high environmental footprint as livestock production accounts for 14.5% of global GHG emissions.

Shifting towards predominantly plant-based diets needs to be a priority among high-consuming countries like the UK in order to meet the international Paris agreement on climate change to keep global temperature rise below 20ºC.

‘It is vital that steps are taken to shift eating patterns towards ones that are healthier for both people and the planet. The government needs to go beyond its current focus on reducing sugar, and do more to work with supermarkets and food companies to ensure our diets are not only healthier but also more sustainable.’

Eating Better

Click here to read the briefing from Medact and Eating Better, ‘A Healthy and Sustainable Food Future: Policy recommendation to embed sustainability in the Eatwell Guide and wider UK food policy’.

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