Access to high-quality, reliable food supplies is a major challenge for the 21st century. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently announced that the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), a high-level ministerial conference to address the major nutrition challenges of the next decades through proposing a flexible policy framework and identifying priorities for international cooperation, will take place in November 2014 at its Rome headquarters.
A preparatory meeting will be held this coming November to identify themes to be addressed at the ICN2 conference. USCIB has contributed to an online FAO discussion to prepare for this fall’s meeting. The discussion, “Nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems,” was created to share evidence and exchange views on ways to improve policies, programs, interventions and methods of evaluation for making agriculture and food systems more responsive to nutrition, especially for the poorest and most nutritionally vulnerable.
From the broadest perspective, USCIB recommended that the FAO create a more targeted, formal approach to engaging with stakeholders, including the private sector. We also emphasized:
- the importance of developing an effective nutrition policy based on scientific evidence
- the potential for the private sector to contribute to a more nutrition-enhancing food system by innovating and investing in the food and agriculture sector
- the role of food systems in focusing on food safety, quality and assurance
- the necessity of preserving natural resources for continued food growth
- the importance of empowering women and girls, and
- coordination across government ministries working with the private sector and civil society to create effective and efficient nutrition policies.
On nutrition policy, USCIB emphasized that scientific evidence is necessary for effective interventions, in order to minimize unintended consequences. In this regard, data on each population’s nutrition and food preferences is essential, as are the appropriate institutional arrangements to best support coordination between government, the private sector and civil society in implementing these strategies. Because the private sector is important in achieving a more nutrition-enhancing food system by innovating and investing in the food and agricultural sector, policies that promote innovation and efficiency across the supply chain are necessary to help address future challenges relating to increased policy coherence, as well as constrained resources and greater demand.
USCIB’s submission recommended that nutrition programs focus on the accessibility of safe food products, and that food companies provide the information to ensure safety. Information regarding nutrition education based on scientific evidence should be outlined by international standards to allow consumers to make healthy choices. Socially and economically empowering women and girls is also important, so that they can make educated, healthy choices for their households
On the preservation of natural resources to ensure continued food growth, USCIB urged the FAO to promote food systems that protect natural resources, as well as careful end-to-end management throughout the supply chain to address population increases, climate change and insufficient water availability. In this area, the private sector plays an important role in research and development, innovation and supply chain management. Nestlé’s Rural Development Framework is an example of how the private sector invests in the development of farmers and their livelihood, while Coca-Cola’s Sustainable Agriculture Guiding Principals set expectations for ingredient suppliers to address sustainability challenges specific to agriculture.
On promoting partnership opportunities across sectors, USCIB highlights the work that the food and beverage industry has engaged in with the WHO’s 2004 Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health (Global Strategy), and most recently the WHO Global Action Plan on NCDs (2013-2020) and the monitoring framework. Cooperation between governments and the food and beverage industry is necessary to the adoption of a multi-sector approach to addressing nutrition challenges.
Staff contact: Helen Medina