This is an important topic and there are a number of ways in which the private sector can contribute to improved nutrition in partnership with other relevant stakeholders. We provide examples from the red meat industry, representing beef, veal, sheep and pork meat.
1. Contributing evidence to inform policies - the private sector can contribute the following evidence in consultation with relevant stakeholders using standardised methodologies to ensure desired outcomes are achieved.
Nutrient composition - dietary guidelines and recommendations are informed by the various food groups ability to deliver on nutrient quality and quantity:
There have been significant changes in production, retail and consumer trimming practices, resulting in leaner meat products and hence lower levels of fat and saturated fat content. The private sector can contribute by updating data to reflect current production systems and consumption practices; represented ‘as consumed’ and by different agro-ecological zones.
Terms such as ‘red meat’, ‘meat’ and ‘processed meat’ which treat commodities as homogenous categories can introduce error since they do not reflect foods available for purchase. The private sector can contribute more meaningful descriptors which represent the retail supply and will help to encourage intake of a diversity of foods within this category.
For some nutrients, such as protein, iron and zinc, correction factors are required which take into consideration bioavailability and the private sector can support research required to improve food compositional data for these nutrients.
Since GHG is not an appropriate proxy for sustainable diets, multi-criteria have been recommended for environmental impacts relevant to food security such as water, arable land and biodiversity. Use of these resources to produce nutrient-rich foods can help to inform policy. The private sector will continue to provide data on the environmental impact of their products.
We note the need for consequential analyses since environmental impacts will change in response to changes in supply and the private sector can provide the necessary data for these models. The Global Agenda of Action for Sustainable Livestock -a multi-stakeholder platform in which FAO, governments, private sector, and civil society work together to develop sustainability criteria – can contribute to this discussion.
2. Supporting nutrition-enhancing programmes
There is evidence from developed countries that improvements in production practices that achieve higher resource use efficiency and decrease degradation of landscapes without compromising their nutritional integrity will not only reduce the environmental impact but also improve nutrition. Actions based on resource use efficiency can usually be practically implemented within the food supply chain and the private sector can share this knowledge with producers in developing countries.
The private sector plays an important role in nutrition education, particularly where food knowledge and skills are required to consume their products, such as meat. There are many examples of partnerships between the private sector, civil society and governments combining their collective expertise, resources and distribution networks in developing programmes and communications for promoting improved nutrition. These need to be evaluated to identify the most effective approaches.
It is becoming increasingly evident that diet and lifestyle are interrelated and that the ‘one size fits all’ approach is not effective. The private sector can contribute consumer insights to guide development of dietary recommendations tailored to the consumption patterns, cultural practices and available food supply of different population groups.
3. Participating in effective partnerships
Collaboration across sectors is challenging and to be effective, we recommend the following:
Nutrition and sustainable diets are broad terms which mean different things to different sectors and to avoid miscommunications, a clear definition and criteria are required which encapsulates the need to feed a growing population and supply a diverse range of foods which meet nutrient requirements and prevent development of chronic diseases.
Two-way dialogue based on mutually beneficial (win-win) partnerships with clarity around roles and responsibilities.