Plates, pyramids and planet – Developments in national healthy and sustainable dietary guidelines: a state of play assessment
This report (PDF) was published jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) at the University of Oxford. “Plates, pyramids and planet” evaluates government-issued food-based dietary guidelines from across the globe, looking in particular at whether they make links to environmental sustainability as well as personal health. There is increasingly robust evidence to suggest that dietary patterns that have low environmental impacts can also be consistent with good health – that win-wins are possible, if not inevitable. The report highlights instances of forward thinking governments who are taking the lead in developing integrated guidance; examines what these guidelines say; identifies common messages; and considers whether and how their approaches could be replicated elsewhere. It looks both at successes and at failures – where attempts to provide integrated guidance have failed, and why. A key finding of this research is that out of 215 countries, just 83 countries have official food based dietary guidelines (FBDG). Their absence is particularly apparent in low income countries – for example only five countries in Africa have guidelines. Even where guidelines exist, they are not always easy to find, and the intended audience and link with policy is not always clear. Only four countries have so far included sustainability in their FBDGs: Brazil, Sweden, Qatar and Germany. All highlight that a largely plant-based diet has advantages for health and for the environment. Sweden is notable in additionally providing more detailed advice on which plant based foods are to be preferred, recommending for example root vegetables over salad greens. The overarching suggestion is that countries that already have FBDGs should begin a process of incorporating sustainability into them. Those countries that do not have them are in a unique position to develop integrated guidelines from the outset. As such, it is important for the process of the FBDGs development to include a wider range of expertise, spanning for example environmental life cycle assessment, the agricultural and environmental sciences, economics, sociology and animal welfare, and therefore include more than one government agency.