Partnerships Crucial to Tackle Global Nutritional Challenges  

19 – 21 November saw the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in Rome. This is an inter-governmental meeting on nutrition jointly organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Representatives from various Governments, the private sector and civil society actively participated in this important meeting. One of the key discussions that emerged was that multi-stakeholder partnerships are key to tackling global nutritional challenges.

More than 90 businesses and private sector entities took part in ICN2. Rocco Renaldi, Secretary General of the International Food and Beverage Alliance, underlined the central role that nutrition plays in increasing global development and well-being. ‘Businesses both have an incentive and a responsibility to be part of this global effort’, he said, highlighting current initiatives to expand private sector commitments to responsive marketing, food labelling, research and innovation.

Mr Renaldi said that the private sector has unique and useful resources that are required to tackle complex nutrition issues. It is vital that Governments, businesses and civil society collaborate to tackle these complex challenges in order to achieve a real and lasting change.

Complex Food Systems

Food systems are highly complex and they are not static – they are constantly evolving and often in ways that challenge preconceived notions about how and where food is procured. The challenges of this multi-faceted issue cannot be understated, and hence a whole-of-society approach is needed.

Innovation

Ensuring better access to healthier food is very important. The food industry is therefore committed to ensure that innovation is a top priority so that products can be created that help better access to healthy, balanced diets. FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva echoed this point by highlighting that private sector participation is essential in gradually reducing saturated fats, sugars, salt, and trans-fats in food and drinks.

Nutrition Literacy

Nutrition Literacy is also high on the agenda for the food industry, according to Mr Renaldi. The food industry is improving the information available to consumers through the roll-out of consistent nutrition labelling approach globally in the next couple of years. This is in an effort to ensure that the information on the front of pack is easily understood by consumers.

Public Private Partnerships

Public private partnership approaches to marketing to children is crucial as well. Commitments to stop marketing communications products that do not need a minimum nutrition criteria to children under twelve is underway globally. Recently in Singapore, such a commitment was rolled out, which shows the tremendous potential of what can be achieved when all three sectors collaborate to help better society.

The McKinsey Global Institute published a report this week titled "Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis", which asserts that that no single intervention is enough and that genuine change will require all societal sectors to act in concert to tackle obesity. The report suggests that some of the biggest food and beverage industry interventions will require coordination across the industry or between industry and government. Among the crucial first steps that could be taken is galvanising momentum to scale up these examples of successful public-private partnerships that engage all sectors of society.

Mr Renaldi highlighted that the priority today is to promote partnerships and collaboration, not only at the policy level, but also on the ground. The food industry is committed to working with all stakeholders to understand the most helpful role that it can play and to bring to life its commitments towards the shared value of improving public health.


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