Brussels, 13 October 2021 – European food policy should focus on creating enabling food environments that make the healthy and sustainable food choices the default and most desirable ones.
In a joint policy briefing  published today, participants in the EU Food Policy Coalition (including SAFE) provide a common, evidence-driven understanding of the central role that food environments – the physical, economic, political and socio-cultural context in which consumers engage with the food system – play in shaping food demand and their potential to leverage a sustainable food systems transition.
This is critical in today’s Europe where food consumption patterns are undermining people’s health and perpetuating unsustainable production systems. Current diets also put the attainment of European food policy objectives out of reach.
The briefing describes the main characteristics of food environments and their potential to create unprecedented changes in food systems by empowering, rather than putting the burden on citizens. It especially focuses on the commercial determinants influencing food choices and on the role of actors of the “middle” of the food chain.
Adopting a “food environment approach” means recognising that people’s food choices are shaped by the contexts within which they are made. Therefore, the most effective and equitable way to empower changes in consumption is to ensure that the foods that contribute to healthy, sustainable diets are the most available, accessible, affordable, pleasurable and widely promoted.
The briefing calls on public authorities to step-up their role in creating enabling food environments, which can generate important co-benefits, such as driving demand for socially just supply chains, and foster agro-ecological and climate-proof production models with high levels of animal welfare. It identifies seven areas for action to achieve this change.
“The Farm to Fork Strategy aims at creating a sustainable food system by 2030. If we want to ensure this transition and meet the targets, we need regulations to be shaped within a different narrative. Moving away from the perspective of consumers making right choices will acknowledge the urgency of a systemic change allowing healthy and sustainable options to be the easiest and most affordable ones. Given the crisis we are facing, this is the only way forward.”Federica Dolce, EU Policy Manager at SAFE – Safe Food Advocacy Europe
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 Policy briefing. Food Environments & EU Food Policy. Discovering the role of food environments for sustainable food systems (2021) EU Food Policy Coalition