Improving diets in an era of food market transformation: Challenges and opportunities for engagement between the public and private sectors
This brief (PDF) by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition seeks to stimulate governments and other stakeholders to help build strategies to incentivize the private sector to influence food systems in ways that will improve the food environment, and enable dietary choices. Leaders of low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) face a policy challenge: how to resolve persisting undernutrition and vitamin and mineral deficiencies while simultaneously preventing the global escalation of overweight and obesity. Some LMIC governments are stepping up to improve diets. However, there are very few successes where governments have harnessed the market power of private sector actors to achieve positive gains in nutrition, which is a huge missed opportunity. Policy makers need to be realistic about their own limits in shaping consumer behaviour and need to be pragmatic in seeking to persuade industry partners to play a more active role in improving diets. A policy focus is needed to encourage and enable firms to shift the balance of their activities in favour of products as well as fresh produce. The key is to establish common understanding of the critical role of diet quality in nutrition. Circumstances should then inform two broad classes of action: incentives and enabling measures. Regulation is a powerful tool at the disposal of policy makers for influencing food and beverage companies. There are also opportunities and benefits for both public and private interest to move forward in partnership, in which the private sector could inform and help shape the design and implementation of policy actions. There are six key questions identified which need to be addressed and resolved as part of any new partnership approach to address malnutrition. The key questions are related to: encouraging investments in food sector SMEs, promoting consumer demand for healthy diets, public incentives for appropriate action in the private sector, managing risks with insurance, building trust and infrastructure.