University of Hertfordshire

  • Kelly Parsons
  • Corinna Hawkes
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Original languageEnglish
PublisherEuropean Observatory on Health Systems and Policies
Publication statusPublished - 2018


Thinking about food as a ‘system’ has gained increasing attention in recent years within the European Union (EU) (and beyond) and there have been calls for a more integrated approach to decision-making in this area. This approach recognizes that food systems involve a complex set of interactions that work together to influence multiple outcomes, notably health, environment, and the economy, including the livelihoods of farmers and the profitability of businesses. Improving health, environment and economy are important goals for governments across Europe and for the EU. Mapping these policy goals identifies explicit connections between these goals and shows that food systems present an opportunity to implement actions to achieve mutual “co-benefits” between them. Yet in practice there are conflicts between achieving these goals. Converting these conflicts into connections that yield co-benefits will require reorienting the entire system towards a vision where health, environmental and economic goals are met in synergy. In this vision, economic benefits for farmers and businesses would be created through the production and delivery of nutritious foods throughout the system, using environmentally-sustainable production methods. This vision for food systems remains highly aspirational; nevertheless, there are specific opportunities where diet-related health, economic and environmental goals could be connected for co-benefits, such as through public procurement and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Making these connections requires cross-government and cross-sector collaboration, and could be supported through food systems policy audits, governance mechanisms to link food systems work across national governments and the EU and roundtables to identify specific steps for adaptation or change.

ID: 22399331