World Food Day 2019: Acknowledging progress and prompting change

16 October 2019

At the Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) we are taking today, World Food Day 2019, as an opportunity to reflect on the actions that the global food and beverage manufacturers can and must take to support healthy diets for a zero hunger world.

Today, we know we are far behind on achieving the WHO Global Nutrition Targets 2025 and Sustainable Development Goal number two, to achieve a world with Zero Hunger. While the number of hungry people is growing, rates of overweight, obesity and related diseases are also alarmingly high. Many players contribute in the global food system, yet as more and more people consume packaged foods, the food industry becomes more of a leading actor.

The private sector can and must be part of the solution

Since ATNI started in 2013, we have published Global Indexes, which rank the nutrition performance of the biggest food and beverage companies in the world. Our latest Global Index – published last year – reveals that despite efforts from the food industry to improve their product portfolios and nutrition policies, these efforts remain limited when translated into concrete actions and goals.

Importantly and on a more positive note, companies have started to recognize their responsibility to help address global nutrition challenges. However, across the board our Indexes show that companies must accelerate action to tackle the global nutrition crisis. They point to the important role of the food industry in reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods, of reviewing marketing practices and introducing healthier and more nutritious choices for consumers.

The 22 food and beverage companies included in the 2018 Index generate an estimated $500 billion in annual sales in over 200 countries and their products play a significant and increasing role in the diets of millions of people.

The importance of joining efforts

Defining and improving successful partnerships is key to achieve the SDGs. That is why some people view SDG#17 (Partnerships for the Goals) as one of the most important ones. Global food and beverage companies have initiated and supported a series of initiatives and forums with a shared agenda. However, there is less clarity on how global targets translate at the local levels. Some companies might also be part of different groups that have differing targets. A good start was the International Food Beverage Alliance formal commitment of May 2018 to align with the WHO target to eliminate industrially produced trans-fat from the global food supply by 2023. But commitment and action beyond trans-fat and by much more companies (including Small and Medium Scale enterprises) are needed for a system transformation towards better and healthier diets for all.

5 things Global food companies can do to ensure more people (especially vulnerable populations) have access to affordable & healthy diets

  1. Work to improve the nutritional quality of their existing products
  2. Set measurable, independently verifiable nutrition targets
  3. Make more affordable and accessible healthy products for all
  4. Develop commercial strategies for tackling undernutrition (micronutrient deficiencies)
  5. Baby food manufacturers must ensure their marketing policies align with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (WHO Code)

What other actions do you think the food and beverage industry need to take to achieve a healthy future for all? Let us know on Twitter: @ATNIndex.

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