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FOOD CONSUMPTION AND SUS TAINABLE DEVELOPMEN T: AN INTRODUCTION (1 ) Anne-Laurence Lefin ConSentSus I n

FOOD CONSUMPTION AND SUS TAINABLE DEVELOPMEN T: AN INTRODUCTION (1 )

Anne-Laurence Lefin ConSentSus

I n s t i t u t p o u r u n D é v e l o p p e m e n t D u r a b l e ,

R u e d e s F u s i l l é s , 7

B - 1 3 4 0 O t t i g n i e s T é l : 0 1 0 . 4 1 . 7 3 . 0 1 E - m a i l : i d d @ i d d w e b . b e

1

Introduction

The r el ation of sust ainability to the area of consumptio n was first stress ed in Agend a 21, where it was s aid that unsust ainabl e consumption and production patt ern s were the m ain cau s e for global environment al det eri oration. In 1994, at the Oslo symposium, sust ainabl e consumption was defi ned as “the us e of goods and s erv i ces that res pond to basi c need s and bring a bett er quality of life, whil e minimising the us e of natural res ourc es, toxi c m at eri als and emissions of wast e and pollut ants over the life cycl e, so as not to j eopard is e the need s o f future generations ”. Consumption, in gene ral, is cru ci a l for sust ainabl e development. Since food belongs to the very basi c need s of all living beings, since it is, world wide, the most ess enti al product for daily consum ption, one can even s ay that food consumption, in parti cul ar, is cap it al fo r sust ainabl e dev elopment. In an analysis of the environment al impa ct of products (EI P R O), Tukk er et al. (2005) unde rlined that within the EU-25, app roximat ely one third of tot al environment al impacts (a mongst whi ch energ y u s e, l and us e, wat er and soil pollution, emission of green hous e gas es , … ) fro m hous eholds could be rel at ed to food and drink consumption. When including the environment al affects of storing and prep aring meals and of out-of-hom e consumption, the figures for food-rel at ed environ ment al impacts r os e to more than 40% of the tot al. They also rev eal ed that, in fact, the environment al i mpact o f consumed foods and bev erag es exc eed ed the impacts of all other investigat ed consumption domains, even tran sport (17 % of me asured imp acts) and housing (7% o f meas ur ed imp acts).

Moreo ve r, besides

of ext e rnal

environment al

aspe c ts, food

is

also

connect ed to our health. ( Tis chner and Kj aern es , 2007) .

an

“int ern al ” issue, clos ely

Following Schä fer et al (2007), pres ent food consump tion patt ern s can not be call ed “sust ainabl e”, as they endanger not only the carry ing cap acity of the eart h, but human health as well. A tran sform ation to sust ainabl e food consumption would be ess enti al for sust ainabl e development.

The re is no common defi nition nor int ern ationally accep t ed crit eri a syst em for sust ainability of food. Most defi nitions mention three dimensions of sust ainability: soci al sust ainability (i.e. peopl e issues, such as he alth, food s a fet y, quality of life , hunger , …) , environ ment al sust ainability (i.e. l and us e, energ y us e and gas emissions, soil pollution, …) and eco nomi c sust ainability. One can not speak about food sust ainability without evoking a sustainabl e agri cultur e (a way of producing / raising food that is healthy for consum ers and animals, does not har m the environment, is humane for wo rkers, res pe cts animals, p rovides fair wages to far mers and sup ports and enhanc es rur al co mmuniti es), and sustainabl e nutrition, defi ned by Koe rber et al (2004) through the following aspects: enjoyabl e and easily digestibl e foods, prefer ably pl ant-bas ed fo ods, prefe rab ly minim ally process ed foods , organi cally produced foods, reg ional and s e asonal products, products with environm ent ally sound pack aging, and fair -trad e products. ( Tis chner and Kj a er nes, 2007)

Also linked to the idea o f sust ainabl e food is the con ce pt of “food s e curit y”.

Sometim es confus ed with food s afet y, the t erm food s ecu rity mean s ensuring that all membe rs of a popul ation have access to a supply of food suf fi ci ent in quality and quantity, reg ard l ess of their soci al or eco nomi c st atus. A s e cure food supply s atisfi es the consumer’s ne eds without j eopard i zing the production process in the short or long t erm . It ensures the sust ainability of suppli es whil e consideri ng the s afet y of the methods of production and the nutritional suit ability of the food produced . In addition, food s ecu rity mean s that every one always has both physi cal and eco nomi c access to enough food for an a ctive, h ealthy life. The concep t enco mpass es the follo wing principl es

• The ways in and mean s by whi ch food is produced and distribut ed res pect the natural proc ess es of the eart h and a re thus sust ainabl e.

• Both the production and consumption of food a re g rounded in and govern ed by soci al values that a re just and equit abl e as well as moral and ethi cal.

• Th e ability to acq uire food is assured .

• Th e food its elf is nutritionally adequat e and pers onall y and culturally a ccep t abl e .

• Th e food is obt ained in a m anner that upholds human dignity. (WHO, 2004)

Sustainabl e food consumption can be defined as access and us e by all pr es ent and futur e generations of the food necessar y for an acti ve, healthy lif e, through means that ar e eco nomi call y, sociall y and environmentall y sustainabl e.

As Tis chner and Kj a ern es (2007) underline it : “ The g oal can not be to r educe consumption of food as much as possibl e, but to figure out whi ch kinds of fo od, produced and proc ess ed whe re and in what way , prep ared ho w and by whom , consu med, digest ed , with l eft overs dispos ed off or even r eus ed in what way et c . are the most sust ainabl e options for differen t reg ions and cultures, differen t productions syst ems and consumers/ citi zen s.

Food consumption and its sust ainability can not be considered as such , but in a bro ader syst e m including the production, processing, tran sport ation, pack aging, prep a ration, and dispos al of food, each o f the vari ous st ages b eing possibly analyzed bo th in t erms of their impa ct on the environm ent and on hum an he alth.

2

Consumption

2.1

Misconsumption

The proc ess es of modern i zation and eco nomi c tran sition have l ed to industri ali zation and urbani zation in many countri es and the developm ent of e conomi es t hat are d ependent on trad e in the global m ark et. Food and food products have b ecom e co mmoditi es pro duced and trad ed in a m ark et that has exp anded from an ess enti ally local bas e to an incr easingly global one. R apid changes in di ets and lifestyl es res ulting from thos e p rocess es are having a signifi can t impact on the nutritional st atus of popul ations. At a global l evel, good evidenc e indi cat es a tran sition in nutrition, in whi ch rising national wealth is acco mpani ed by a shift away fro m di ets bas ed on indigenous st apl e foods, such as grai ns, st arch y roots and locally grown l egum es, f ruits and veget abl es, towa rds more v ari ed di ets that include more process ed food , more foods of anim al origin, more add ed sugar, s alt and fat, and o ft en more al cohol.

This co mbines with a decline in energ y expenditure th at is associ at ed with a s edent ary lifestyl e, with motori zed tran sport, and l abour-s aving devi ces at home and at work l arg ely rep l a cing physi cally deman ding manu al t asks, and l eisure time oft en being dominat ed by physi cally undeman ding pastimes. B ecau s e of thes e changes in di et ary and lifestyl e patt ern s, nutritional and di et-rel at ed dis eas es are incre asingly signifi can t cau s es of dis ability and pre matur e deat h in both d eveloping and newly dev eloped countri es. ( WHO, 2004) . Thes e consu mption patt ern s not only undermine the quality of life but also have othe r neg ative environm ent al, soci al and e conomi c impa cts. ( Ba rber , 2000)

  • 2.2 Over-consumption

The over -consumption of food is also a s eri ous issue. This tren d appears in both developing as well as affl uent industri al nations. In cont empora ry post-industri al soci eti es, wh ere the food syst em provides peopl e with ampl e a cc ess to a wide vari ety of foods, m any of whi ch a re high in fat and are cal ori c ally dens e, there is a strong link between food , eating, and weight. Post-industri al food syst ems add unnecess ary cal ori es at all st ages (production, proces sing, distribution, acq uisition, prep aration, and consumption) and a re the refo re l ab ell ed “f att ening food syst ems ” (Sobal, 2006: 385)

Obesity is one of the gre at est publi c health chall enge of the 21 st cen tury. Its prev al en ce has tripl ed in many countri es in the WHO Europ ean Region since the 1980s, and the numb ers of thos e a ffe ct ed continue to ris e at an al arming rat e, parti cul arl y amon g children . Obesity is alread y res ponsibl e for 2- 8% health costs and 10-13 % of deat hs in differ ent parts of the EU. ( Tis chner and Kj a ern es , 2007)

The probl em of over weight and obesity has only recen tly come to the forefro nt of publi c health, as publi c health nutritionists were pri marily conc ern ed wi th the probl ems of undern utrition, especi ally in vulnerab l e groups in soci ety. WHO, ho wev er, c alls over weight (a body mass index – B MI2 – of 25– 29.9) and obesity (BMI of 30 or mor e) the biggest unreco gni zed publi c health probl em in the world; they contribut e subst anti ally to both ill health and death in popul ations. Exc ess weight is cal cul at ed to be res ponsibl e for nearl y 300 000 deat hs annually in the EU – ne arl y 1 in 12 of all deat hs reco rded – by contributing to card iovas cul ar dis eas es and can c er. The major compli cations of exc ess weight are type 2 di abet es, high blood pressure, coronary hea rt dis eas es, strokes, a r ange of can cer types, a rthritis, tooth decay and ost eoporosis. A s eri es of dis abiliti es and psychologi cal probl ems are linked directly to excess weight. ( WHO, 2004)

  • 2.3 Between over and mis-consumption: anorexia and bulimia

Sociologists have comm ent ed on how the soci al syst em provides eas y ac cess to high-cal ori e inexpensive food, with a cons equently high prev al en c e of obesity and the par all el development of a fear o f fat ness ( Sobal, 2006: 385). In developed countri es, food is abundant, and food m anufa cturers, through the medi a, continuously and pers uasively encourag e peopl e to enjoy the full pl eas ure of food consumption. As a nu mber of authors have not ed, wh en food is s carce , cultural ideals fav our a l arg e body, whos e “ab undanc e” sy mboli zes wealth and st atu s. Convers ely, in times of pl enty, soci al mor es shift toward s dis ciplining food int ake, and the thin body becomes the ideal. In today’s advanced cap it alist soci eti es, food is r ead ily avail abl e and soci al worth is incre asingly me asured by a pe rson’s ability to resist excess. Regimes of body control, pa rti c ul arl y through the reg ul ation of food int ake, are now com mon fe atures of West ern culture. ( Ger mov an d Willi ams , 2006), and st arts to per me at e other cultures. Indeed , eating disorders are incre asingly becoming a global probl em, with rising number of cas es in non- West ern countri es world wide. ( Hep wo rth, 2006)

  • 2.4 Under-consumption

Whil e inhabit ants of industri alis ed countri es oft en consume too much cal ori es l ead ing to negative health effects, still a too l arg e proportion of inhabit ants of developing and emerg ing countri es have no access to enough food and s ave drinking wat e r. Hunger, d efi ned as “inadequa cy of di et ary int ake rel ative to the kind and quantity of food req uired for growth, activity, and maint enance of good health” ( Whit 2004), is a s ali ent indi cat or of the unsust ainability of the global food syst em . ( Ba rber , 2000)

Agri cultural p roduction at cur ren t l evels could fe ed e veryone on the pl anet, but it does not. B eyond the nutritional minimum req uirem ent of 2,300 cal ori es per day, each pers on could reg ul arl y be provided 2,650 cal ori es. World Resourc es Institut e reports that there is enough food in the world to feed 12 % mor e than the act ual popul ation (B arb er , 2 000). Though, t en y ears aft er the 1996 Ro me World Food Su mmit ( WSF ), the nu mber of undern our ished peopl e in the world r em ains high. Th ere has been virtually no progress towa rds the WS F goal – to red uce hunger by half by 2015. In 2001-03, F AO estimat es that there are still 854 million undernourished peopl e worldwide: 820 million in the developing countri es, 25 million in the tran sition countri es and 9 million in the industri ali zed countri es. ( Tis chner and Kj ae rnes, 2007) . At the s a me time, on e-third of the food wast ed e ach day in the Unit ed St at es could feed 26 million peopl e. Whil e there is mor e food, the poor can not affo rd to buy it (Ba rber , 2000).

Adequ at e nutrition could be deri ved from grai ns, but only 40% of the grai n grown in the world is fed to livestock to produce high-pri ced meat. ( Whit, 2004). Moreo v er, l arg e pa rts of the surface of the globe to produce luxury products for ri ch consu mer s – for exa mpl e bee f, suga r, co ffe e, t e a, and chocol at e, at the expens e of food cro ps for l ess affl uent consumers. ( Leah y , 2004). This can l ead us to think again about over- consumption (cf .supra) through another l ens …

Following P- M Boul ange r, f rom a sust ainability pers pective, there is over consumption if it res ults in underco nsumption els e wher e ( cont empor ari es) or l at e r (fu ture gen erations), i.e . when:

  • - Some peopl e don’t have acc ess to suffi ci ent amounts (i.e above a specifi ed thres hold or norm) of a given res ource or of r esources in gene ral (unde rco nsum ption)

  • - Others enjoy l evels of consumption of thes e res ources above that thres hold (overco nsumption as such);

  • - There is a cau s al r el ation between the deprivation of the for me r and the (over )co nsumption of the l att er. ( Boul anger , 2007:24-25).

The re is over-consumption of ce rt ain kinds of foods (es peci ally meat) in industri ali zed countri es, since it has as cons equence to make the increas e the pri ce of the cro ps, from now on unaffo rdabl e for the poorest…

Barbe r (2000) also points out the probl e m o f “hidde n hunger” (defi ci en ci es in vit al mi cro nutri ents such as iron, iodine, and vit amin A)0 whi ch strikes at 1 .2 billion, l eav ing a devast ating wake of illness.

The WHO cl aims that "nearl y 30 % o f hum anity are curren tly suffe ring fro m one or mor e of the multipl e forms of malnutrition." Probl e ms linked to ma lnutrition cl aim the lives of 40,000 peopl e each day, with 19,000 of thes e deat hs among infan ts and chi ldren . World wat ch points out that "roughly half the popul ation in all nations – wealthy and poor – suf fe rs fro m poor nutrition of one kind or another”

3

Production

Cont empor ary methods of food production res ult ed from s ci entifi c developments in agri cultural res ear ch: the g eneti c s el e ction of cro p strai ns and ani mal br eed s; the appli cation of nutri ents to cro ps and animal feed ; the incre as e of yi eld through the us e of biochemi cals, such as pesti cides and gro wth enhancers; and the us e of vet eri nary medi cine to pre vent dis eas e outbreak s in groups of confined

animals and to promot e their gro wth and productivity. Thes e t ech ni c al developments have be en mat ched by incre as ed finan ci al investment in f ar ming and food production to gain f rom eco nomi es of s cal e. This has l ed to red u ced l abour costs; increas ed mech ani zation; the development of monoculture cro pping patt ern s; increas ed fi eld, he rd and flock si z es; red uced cro p biodiversity; longer tran sport dist ances; increas ed food pro cessing and us e of additives; great er conc entration of r et ailing outl ets; and incre as ed mark eting and adve rtising activity. ( WHO, 2004)

Consumption depends on where and ho w food is produced , process ed , pack aged , pres erv ed, distribut ed, prep ared and dispos ed of . Th e most signifi can t environment al impacts occu r at the beginning of the production chain, in the area of foo d production. Agri cultural production req uires 28% o f the food s ector’s tot al energ y req uire ment. (Fri edl et al, 2006) . Together with livestock production, agri cultural production is res ponsibl e for the following imp acts and costs of industri al agri culture:

- Soil d egrada tion a nd soil e rosion through ploughing and subs equent exposure
-
Soil d egrada tion a nd soil e rosion through ploughing and subs equent exposure of b are soil to rai n
and wind, through the us e of herb i cids that destroy weed s cover for soils, and through the remo val of
tree cov er on slopes.
-
Cro pland loss to urba ni zation
Gra dual destr uctio n of fo rests, wetl ands, and ot her wild are as to cre at e l and for agri culture ,
destruction of wildlife.
-
-
Loss of bio diversity in cro p s peci es
-
Yi eld loss: The dra mati c ris e in grai n yi elds betwee n the 1960s and 1980s t ended to outweigh the
loss of arab l e l and. Ho wever , since 1984, gr ain yi el ds have slo wed to such a degr ee that they no
longer comp ens at e for the st ead y elimination of gr ainl and.
-Wat er pollu tion: Th e incre asing us e of inorgani c fertili zers is res ulting, in some areas , in the
cont amination of drinking wat er with nitrat es and da ma ge to aquati c eco syst ems fro m eutrophi cation.
-
Over pu mping of grou nd wat er:
In many irrigation-dependent countri es, including China, Indi a,
North
Afri ca ,
Middl e
East,
southwest e rn
Unit ed
St at es,
wat er
t abl es
ar e
f alling
becau s e
o f
overp umping.
-
Salinity i n dry-lan d cultu re
-
Overfis hing: overfishing has res ult ed in red uced productivity of fisheri es, with the marine fish
harv est no w st agnant. Fish stocks ar e de clining, with a bout one-fourth curr ently depl et ed or in d anger
of depl etion and another 44% being fished at their ecologi cal limit. Moreo ver, fishing t ech niques are
us ed that destroy other s ea anim als or habit at. ( Barbe r, 2000)
-
Resistan ce o f pla nt a nd ins ec t pests to c he mi cal pes ti cides a nd he rbi cid es
-
Eli mination of pr edato r ins e cts
Depe nd enc e on oil and ext ernal e nergy r esour ces: Modern agri culture r eli es subst anti ally on fossil
fuels. Nitrogen fertili zers , fe ed concen tr at es, pump ed irrigation, and power mach ine ry such as tract ors
acco unt for much of the energ y us ed on f ar ms.
-
G ree nho us e gas es e missions: whil e fuel co mbustion is the main sour ce for C O2 e missions, other
import ant green hous e gas es are methane ( C H4) f rom animal husbandry, wast e and ri ce pl anting, and
nitrous oxide (N2 O) f rom industry and agri cultural soils.
-
  • - Co nce rns abo ut ani mal welfare: Ani mals and nature have becom e com moditi es: raw mat e ri al for an

industri al production syst em. ( Tis chner and Kj a ern es, 2007). Far m animals are mad e to work very hard in producing meat, milk, eggs and wool, not l east becau s e the geneti c s el e ction of many bre eds to generat e profit has outrun the stren gth of their bodi es. The re is evidence that animals suffe r dis comfort or s evere pain throughout their short lives so that the consumers can buy cheap food in the shops. (ex :

joint defo rmiti es and he art dis eas es due to fo rced fatt en ing, enhanced rep roduction rat es to the limit of the animal’s biologi cal cap a city, restri ction on the mo vemen t o f the animals, …) ( Atkins and Bo wl e r,

2001)

Impacts on health:

  • - Ins ecti cide, rodendi cide, h erb i cides, and fungi cides ar e of concern to the consu mer’s health becau s e of the r esidues that appear in food. Advers e h ealth effe cts can res ult from both acu t e and chroni c exposure too foodborne chemi cals and may include kidney and liver damag e, f et al development al disruption, endocri ne syst em disruption, imunotoxi city and can cer ( WHO, 2004).

  • - Drugs (fo r inst ance antibioti cs) are also routinely us ed by far mers to increas e the gro wth or yi eld of their animals and to prot ect them from dis eas es. The re is a risk that, over a peri od of time, bact e ri a becom e im mune to them and that this immunity might pass through the food chain to m ake b act eri al infections in hum an more diffi c ult to treat.

  • - A si mil ar issue is rais ed by the us e of hor mones as growth pro mot ers, that could have bad impli cations on both animal and hum an he alth. ( Atkins and Bo wl e r, 2001 : 216)

3.1

Processing

The Europ ean food processing industry is the third biggest EU industry employing some 2.7 millions peopl e with more than 26000 compani es a cro ss the EU. Mor e than 70% of the agri cultural goods produced in the EU are tran sfor med into food industry products. There is a t endency toward the consumption of highly process ed foods ( fast and conveni ence foods) and a higher amount of appli ances in the kit chen, accompani ed by decre asing knowl edge about nutrition and food. (Tis chner and Kj aern es, 2007) .

The alt er ation of natural foods to make them mor e app eti zing or to pres erv e them has been a fe ature of the food industry for hundred s of years. We have co m e to accep t such practi ces as a matt er of cours e and indeed , process ed or manuf act ured foods constitut e about three quart ers of our di et and s eem quit e normal. About 3800 additives ar e us ed in our d aily food, for three basi c purpos es .

  • First, there are cosm eti c chemi c als that make products look more attractive to s ens es, especi ally colouring agents, fl avours, s weet eners and t exture modifi ers, such as emulsifi ers and st abili zers.

  • Second, ther e are pres erv atives, including antioxidant and s equestran ts, whi ch add life to a product.

  • Third, pro cessing aides assist the manufact uring proce ss, for inst ance by prev enting food from sti cking to mach inery .

A s mall but signifi can t group of peopl e ar e all erg i c t o individual or group additives. Such all erg i c reactions can be sudden and dra mati c, but pe rhaps eve n more wor rying is the unknown and insidious long-t erm effe ct that food additives and ch emi c al r esidues m ay have . ( Atkins and Bo wl er, 2001)

Methods of storing and proc essing food t end to red uce than enhance nutritional cont ent.

4

Distribution

Onc e food is produced , it is then pack aged, tr ansport ed and delivered to a s al es outl et. Som e food is moved by ca rt to the local vill age ma rket, other (an in creasingly major sh are , cf .infra ) is loaded into huge carg o boxes and shipped o r flo w thous ands mil es away, l at er car ri ed by r efri ger at ed r ailroad c ars and/or trucks to a wa reh ous e to p erh aps wit for week s o r even months. (B arb er , 2000)

Global tr ade in agri cultural products has incre as ed r a pidly in the l ast fe w d ecad es. In the l ast five decad es, the volum e of agri cultural exports has ris en by 550% and tot al agri cultural production, 320%. The diffe ren c e shows that an increasing proportion of food is grown for export rat her than local consumption. Th e volume of exports has incre as ed signifi can tly, but their value has increas ed eve n more dra mati cally, rising an estimat ed 1730% in the peri od, indi cating a signifi can t incr eas e in the per-unit value of the foodstuffs being shipped, as a res ult of refri geration t ech niques and fast er delivery using air tran sport. Sev eral probl e ms associ at ed with incr eas ed food trad ing may thre at en the sust ainability and s ecu rity of the food supply. Thes e include the s el ection of the co mmoditi es trad ed; the concen tr ation of trad e a mong a fe w dominant mult inationals; the effects o f tran sport – incre asing tran sport adds to air pollution and road hazard s – , storag e and pack aging on the environment, and the need for tra ceab ility in the food chain. (B arb e r, 2000; WHO, 2004)

  • 5 Food safety

Although today control and reg ul ation of food s afet y are very high, the consumer trust in food s afet y is red uced by food s can dals. Food s cares are beco ming common: s almonell a, B S E, bird flu, geneti cally modifi ed cro ps, … Whether the s ci ence supports such wor ri es or not s ee ms to be a m arg inal matt er, becau s e medi a hav e rais ed the debat e to such a pit ch that consumers a re making purch as e d ecisions on the basis of f ear rat he r than fa ct. ( Atkins and Bo wl e r, 2001)

The refo r e, food s afet y – the assuran c e that food will not cau s e har m to the consu mer wh en it is prep ared and/or eat en – has com manded the most att ention from publi c, politi ci ans and offi ci als in Europe in re cen t y ears.

Concern s over food s af ety and control of food suppli es have a ris en fro m a nu mber of fact ors su ch as:

  • - rising numbers of incidents of foodborne dis eas e

  • - the em erg en ce o f ne w, s e rious haza rds in the food ch ain

  • - the globali zation of the food trad e

  • - demograp hi c changes and an incr eas e in vulnerab l e gro ups

  • - new opportuniti es for ch emi c al cont a mination

  • - the need for appropri at e risk ass essm ent proced u res fo r new t ech nology.

Adve rs e he alth eff ects can r esult fro m:

  • - exposure to foodborne che mi cals (arising fro m environment al pollut ants, agri cultural and vet eri nary pr acti ces su ch as pesti cides, f ertili zers and dr ugs, and food processing and pack aging t ech niques)

  • - infection: when vi abl e org anisms (b act eri a , virus es , or parasit es) a re p res ent in the food and ent er the body , whe re their gro wth and m et abolism pro duce the dis e as e r espons e)

  • - intoxi cation : when the pres en ce and gro wth o f an orga nism in the food bec aus e of incorre ct storag e ar e acco mpani ed by the a ccu mul ation of a toxin that is ingest ed with the food and cau s es illness. ( WHO, 2004)

Food poisoning is among the commonest forms of illness. It is on the increas e in developed countri es. The reas ons for the s ecu l ar incre as e is bound up with t he changing food syst em. First, food production has beco me much mor e int ensive over the l ast 50 ye a rs and ther e ar e pr essures on f ar mers and food processors to cut corne rs in orde r to red uce costs. A battoirs and food pro cessing pl ants have b een shown to be major points for infection and, bec aus e they are gro wing l arg er and l a rger, a singl e incident can hav e a big imp act.

Second, consum ers are de manding more conveni ence food but thes e ar e oft en not properl y stored . Refri ge rat or t e mper atures over 5 °C are d angero us as is food kept beyond its us e-by dat e, and also fro zen food not fully defro st ed be fore cooking. Trad itional cooking skills have oft en been substitut ed by t ech nologi cal innovations such as mi crowav e oven s, whi ch may give a fals e i mpression that the food has be en thoroughly heat ed . ( Atkins and Bo wl e r, 2001)

  • 6 Conclusion : sustainable food?

Sum marising the environment al i mpacts of food con sumption, of all st ages of a food product life cycl e, agri culture production is res ponsibl e for the highest environment al effe cts. Th e influence of pack aging mat e ri al and tran sport is of minor import a nce co mpared to other c at egori es. Conce rning food cat egori es , the s mall est environm ent al impa cts can be expe ct ed fro m s eas onabl e and fr esh veget abl e products grown in an ext ensive m anner (such as organi c agri culture) with littl e tran sport and light pack aging. Not surprisingly, m eat and m eat p roducts show the most s evere environm ent al cons equences, followed by dairy products and other pr oduct groups (such as fats and oils, soft drinks and bread /br ead p roducts).

A sust ainabl e food di et would give pre fer ence for meatl ess or red uced me at di ets, organi c ally, reg ionally and s eas onally produced foods, minim ally process ed, eco logi cally pack ed and t ast efu lly prepared foods, di ets that have low environm ent al impacts but provide the r equired a mount of nutri ents and energ y to m aint ain good health, as well as foods trad ed fairly.

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