The world's population is growing, more and more people are overweight, and our ecological footprint is too large. To produce sufficient food in a sustainable manner in the near future, the current food system needs to be changed.  The food system includes everything needed to feed populations: from growing and harvesting food to food consumption.

RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment proposes three ways of achieving a healthier, more sustainable and safer diet: not eating too much, eating more vegetable and fewer animal products and consuming less sugary and alcoholic beverages. These dietary changes will reduce the number of chronically ill people, reduce health inequalities and reduce environmental impact. In most cases, food is also safer; for example, the consumption of less meat goes hand in hand with fewer food-borne infections.

With the SPRStrategic Programme RIVM theme "Integrated food policy", RIVM aims to examine the measures that can trigger these changes and to develop a framework for assessing the effectiveness of potential policy measures. Collaboration with different stakeholders is crucial in this respect.

Developing an assessment framework

The proposed changes in the diet can have an effect at several levels. For example, a switch from an animal to a more plant-based diet will have consequences for agriculture (livestock farming, horticulture) on the production side, and for health and safety on the consumer side. To quantify the consequences, to map the influence of the various factors on each other, and to weigh these against each other, an assessment framework is needed. Product innovations such as cultured meat and agricultural innovations must also be included.

Perception and behaviour

In addition to developing an assessment framework, it is also important to see how consumers can be supported in making the choice to eat less animal and more vegetable products. In order to do this, it is first necessary to identify the reasons why people choose or choose not to consume meat. The next step is to investigate what stimulates people to eat more vegetable products.

Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGsSustainable Development Goals ). The Netherlands has also committed itself to this. Several SDGs are linked to a change in the food system. For example, SDGSustainable Development Goal 12 focuses on the sustainable consumption and production of food. Which policy measures are effective in bringing this about? This is the question that RIVM wants to investigate, together with external partners and stakeholders, such as industry, social organisations and knowledge institutions.

Connection to society

Not only is it important to determine effective policy measures in order to achieve a sustainable food system, it is also important that these measures are ultimately truly employable in society to achieve this sustainable food system. Which parties need to be involved? What do these parties need? How can national policy be implemented locally, and what can national policy learn from local policy? And how can you monitor progress? The answers to all these questions can help to support society in achieving a sustainable food system.

Research

For the SPR theme "Integrated food policy", RIVM carries out the following two studies:

What

RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment is developing an assessment framework to provide citizens and policy with an insight into the effects of changes in the food system. The effects of current food consumption and those of possible policy intentions are assessed through scenarios. The focus is on the transition to a more plant-based diet. Economic, social and cultural aspects are included in the scenarios.

Why

Our food consumption and food production methods have major consequences for nature and the environment. Public health is also under pressure from the current diet. For our health and the environment, it is clear that we need to consume fewer animal products, alcohol, and sugar-containing products. We should also double the amount of fruit and vegetables we eat. But is the healthy choice also good and safe for the environment? And what does that mean for the agricultural sector?

How

Fairplay4food builds on earlier strategic research by RIVM. The number of indicators will be expanded, for example, by using RIVM's monitoring programmes. Multiple criteria decision analysis (MCDA multiple criteria decision analysis) is used to provide insight into the advantages and disadvantages of food policy choices. Various scenarios for the transition to a more plant-based diet are also being drawn up.

Cooperation

Fairplay4food works closely with other projects that will provide more insight into the social aspects of food choices. Stakeholders with varying interests will be involved in the project to ensure that different points of view are included in the scenarios.

What

RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment investigates the ways in which young adults make nutritional choices. The aim is to discover how you can encourage people to choose healthy and sustainable food more often. With this knowledge, we can develop effective measures to switch to a healthier and more sustainable diet.

Why

The focus lies on the consumption of meat because the production of meat contributes to a large extent to the ecological footprint of our food. It produces particulate matter, pathogens, greenhouse gases and the use of pesticides, and requires a disproportionate amount of nutrients. Scientists agree that it would be good for people and the environment to eat less animal and more plant-based food. Many citizens consider sustainability and health important, but still make choices in the supermarkets based on other motives, such as habits, price, social norms, convenience and taste.

How

SHIFT-DIETS consists of three parts: 1. A literature review and the investigation of existing food consumption data. 2. Collecting new data with the help of a consumer panel and workshops with young adults and experts. 3. Trying out pilot measures to see whether young adults really make different choices when buying food products.

This project also contributes to the SPRStrategic Programme RIVM theme ‘Perception and behaviour’.