En buenos términos con la terminología

La definición de “seguridad alimentaria” ha evolucionado considerablemente con el tiempo y en las últimas décadas han surgido terminología y conceptos adicionales que incluyen la "seguridad nutricional", "seguridad alimentaria y nutrición" y "seguridad alimentaria y nutricional". Cada uno de estos términos tiene diferentes connotaciones. Si bien ello indica una comprensión mucho más profunda de los vínculos entre la seguridad alimentaria y una nutrición adecuada, la falta de acuerdo sobre el uso de términos a menudo crea confusión y puede entorpecer un debate productivo sobre la mejor forma de abordar las cuestiones de la inseguridad alimentaria y la desnutrición.

El 37 ª período de sesiones del Comité de Seguridad Alimentaria Mundial (CFS) instó a la Mesa del CFS, con el asesoramiento de su Grupo Asesor y la Secretaría conjunta, así como con las organizaciones internacionales pertinentes, en particular  la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) y el Fondo de las Naciones Unidas para la Infancia (UNICEF), a que proponga opciones sobre el significado y los diferentes usos -en su caso-, de los términos "seguridad alimentaria", "seguridad alimentaria y nutrición", "seguridad alimentaria y nutricional" y "seguridad nutricional" al período de sesiones del CFS para la estandarización de la terminología oficial que el Comité debería usar (CFS37 Informe Final, 2011).

A medida que el CFS continúa afianzando su reputación como la principal plataforma intergubernamental e internacional sobre las cuestiones relacionadas con la seguridad alimentaria y la nutrición, es de particular importancia que tenga una interpretación y comprensión común y completa de los términos clave y sus implicaciones para el trabajo del Comité y de sus integrantes.

La Secretaría del Comité Permanente de Nutrición de Naciones Unidas (UNSCN, por sus siglas en inglés) junto con la Secretaría del CFS está guiando el proceso del Equipo de Trabajo del CFS sobre terminología para ayudar a garantizar que se establecen puentes conceptuales y programáticos entre seguridad alimentaria y nutrición y que evolucionen de forma complementaria y se refuercen mutuamente. El Equipo de Trabajo elaboró el borrador del documento ‘En buenos términos con la terminología’ a través de un proceso de consultas.

El documento propone avanzar hacia la una terminología más incluyente de seguridad alimentaria y nutricional, a fin de reflejar mejor los vínculos conceptuales entre la seguridad alimentaria y la seguridad nutricional.

¿Cuáles son sus puntos de vista sobre este tema y sobre la nueva definición propuesta de seguridad alimentaria y nutricional?

Sus contribuciones se fusionarán y se remitirán al Equipo de Trabajo del CFS como la voz única de la comunidad en general de la seguridad alimentaria. Una versión revisada del documento será presentada en el próximo Grupo asesor mixto y la reunión de la Mesa en septiembre, y se prevé que la versión final se presentará en el 39º período anual de sesiones del CFS en octubre de 2012.

Esperamos sus comentarios

Secretaría del CFS

Esta discusión ha sido cerrada. Por favor, póngase en contacto con para cualquier información adicional.

Peter Carter Climate Emergency Institute (international), Canada

Thank you for the background in the document which is an interesting read.
I thoroughly agree with you final definition copied below.
“Food and nutrition security exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to food, which is safe and consumed in sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences, and is supported by an environment of adequate sanitation, health services and care, allowing for a healthy and active life.”

It is how ever vital to consider it in terms of the new world food nutrition security context- that we all now face today  due to immediate impacts on Northern hemisphere food security due to committed rapidly increasing climate change impacts.
Food and nutrition insecurity from now on is not limited to the Global South.
Global drought has been increasing for 30 years and NH drought over ten years.
The Northern hemisphere warming is continuing to increase faster than the global average, with the Arctic now warming several times faster.
Increased warming increases heat waves and drought.
Arctic snow and summer sea ice albedo cooling is the air conditioner of the NH summer.
As the NH albedo air conditioner is rapidly being lost NH drought, heat waves, and climate variability increase.
Only an emergency transformation in the world food economy and world energy economy can prevent the collapse the great NH agricultural regions and the world food economy. With that of course civilization will descend into chaos and collapse. 

Peter Carter

Dr. Sandra Mutuma Action Against Hunger|ACF, United Kingdom

Dear Moderator and Colleagues,

Please find my comments and recommendations below for due consideration:

-The concept of a balanced intake of food and nutrients is missing from the definition, a key concept when defining nutrition, undernutrition or indeed malnutrition. Malnutrition exists when there is an imbalanced intake of food and nutrients, undernutrition leads to a deficiency in energy, wasting (acute) or stunting (chronic), micronutrients (vitamin or mineral deficiency disorders), whereas overnutrition leads to an excess intake of energy (overweight or obesity) or micronutrients (toxicity). The key question at this point is whether the CFS definition pertains to undernutrition (in all its various forms) or to both undernutrition and overnutrition. Point 33 on page 11 of 16 states ‘Keeping in mind that we are all working towards the eradication of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition…’, the CFS definition should clarify its position on exactly what type of malnutrition it is working on by using the word undernutrition in its definition.

-It is clear that the CFS definition does not refer to overnutrition, although ACF notes that undernutrition can exist in overweight or obese people due to an overabundance of certain types of food energy e.g. from carbohydrates and fats and yet be lacking in essential fats, protein and micronutrients. Furthermore, dietary intake of food may be balanced in terms of nutrient intake but inadequate in terms of quantity, whilst food intake may be sufficient in quantity without being balanced or of good quality. In the annex of key terms, undernutrition appears only under the hunger heading where it seems to be interchangeable with malnutrition. As such, the annex should fully and cogently define different types of undernutrition and overnutrition.

-Food preference can be a very personal and subjective thing and we know that food preferences have never been an aspect of food security throughout history. The more pertinent term here may be, culturally acceptable. Individuals prefer a variety foods but that is an impossible condition to apply to ‘all people at all times’ as per the current definition and individual food preferences are not necessarily ideal or conducive to health.

-From reading the 37th Session Final Report (Rome 17-22 October) it is clear that when the terms, food security and nutrition or food and nutrition security are used, in the text, there is hardly any mention of nutrition at all and it invariably refers actually only to food security. As such, food security and nutrition security should be two separate terms rather than merged as current practice. However, even if Food is added as a prefix to nutrition security, I suggest that the current definition proposed should be amended accordingly to read as:

“(Food security and) Nutrition security exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to food and water, which provides a balanced diet that is safe, consumed in sufficient quantity and quality as well as culturally acceptable to meet all their dietary needs and is supported by an environment of adequate sanitation, health care and to enable optimum health and activity in all physiological states, throughout the human lifecycle.”

Best Regards,

Dr Sandra Mutuma
Senior Nutrition Advisor at Action Against Hunger

Etienne du Vachat Action contre la Faim - ACF (Action Against Hunger), France

Dear colleagues, dear moderator,

ACF International (Action Contre la Faim) would like to share a few idea on the terminology discussion. We hope these remarks can contribute to clarifying what is at stake in this important debate from a nutrition standpoint. We very much welcome your comments and reactions.

With best regards,

Etienne du Vachat
Advocacy Officer


ACF (Action Contre la Faim) welcomes this very clear and useful document in the frame of the CFS work aiming at clarifying different concepts and the evolutions of definitions. These, over the last few years, have had a very strong influence on how public policies are both shaped and implemented at the international as well as national levels. This is why it is very important that new definitions actually reflect how we view the current and future priorities.

We fully believe it is essential to re-emphasize existing strong linkages between food security and nutrition. We also believe it is critical to clarify terminologies and concepts which are sometimes used in an interchangeable way or in imprecise manner, leading to confusion.

ACF is however not in favour of the final recommendation made in the CFS document to promote the combined terminology “Food and Nutrition security” for the following reasons:
- Food Security and Nutrition Security are two different concepts or “conditions”, although the links between the two are strong and must be stressed, especially to better align food security policies and programmes to nutritional security targets, which is a key aspect to be addressed to sustainably combat both under- and over-nutrition. This is well reflected throughout the document.
- Food Security is “only” one precondition to nutrition security, along with others (such as adequate water, sanitation and hygiene environment and health and care practices), as reflected in the UNICEF malnutrition conceptual framework.
- Combining the two concepts tends to under-emphasize the links between nutrition and the other underlying causes of undernutrition (inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene environment and health and care practices) by focusing solely on food security (one but not the only, nor the main cause of undernutrition). The proposed definition for Food and Nutrition Security even go further by putting the environment, health and care practices as background elements, serving only to "support” food security.
- The value of the current Nutrition Security terminology is that it stresses that a range of conditions are required simultaneously to guarantee, in the long run, a good nutrition situation
- A last point is that the two concepts of Food Security and Nutrition Security are already largely mingled by many people, and many still tend to believe that undernutrition is only a matter of food and often only food availability, which is far from reality. The combined terminology has the potential to pursue this misconception.

Consequently, in line with the rational detailed in the CFS document, ACF recommends to:
- Stick to the 2 current distinct terminologies instead of a combined one : Food Security on one hand, Nutrition Security on the other, stressing the distinction but also the strong linkages between the two: Food Security is a precondition of Nutrition Security and should always aim at contributing to Nutrition Security ;
- To better clarify what the document is aiming at, we think “undernutrition”, “overnutrition”, “Severe Acute Malnutrition” and “Global Acute Malnutrition” must be more clearly technically defined in the document
- Possibly reinforce the strong links between Food Security and nutrition through an emphasis in the Food Security definition stressing that the core and ultimate aim of food security should be a good nutrition (as a precision to “healthy life”).

As an additional comment, with regard to the underlying causes of undernutrition, we recommend sufficient attention is being paid to water; there can be no food security without water, it is needed to produce food at the production level (farming) and therefore has a direct impact on food availability; it also has a direct impact on the safety of food (hygiene). Water is correspondingly important at the household level where is it required for not only cleaning particular foods but also for cooking to make the food consumable and to optimise access and utilisation of the nutrients in food at the physiological level. At the individual level, water is essential to keep the body well hydrated and to ensure the body is at its physiological peak to digest and metabolise the food consumed. Finally, water is required not only for food hygiene but also for personal hygiene (hand washing) to prevent disease.

Dr. Claudio Schuftan PHM, Viet Nam

Dear Moderator,

I have been participating in the debate through a group of CSOs giving input to FAO.
We have all been frustrated at the reluctance of the drafters to add in the text a mention to the alternative use of the concept of food sovereignty.
I do not need to add here, to the persons who have the expertise to contribute to this debate the important differences between F+NS and food sovereignty.
We are not advocating a total switch to this terminology; just an acknowledgement and a reason why this may not be a choice for FAO would help bringing the document up to the present.


Urban Jonsson THE OWLS, international consultancy company, Kenya

The revised Draft of 25 July 2012 is a significant improvement from the earlier Draft of 30 March 2012. However, the wrong conclusions and final recommendations have not changed. The term ‘food and nutrition security’ is promoted as the one “best reflecting the conceptual linkages between food security and nutrition security”. I have the following comments and recommendations:

1.    The term ‘food and nutrition security’ does not reflect the linkages between ‘food security’ and ‘nutrition security’. First of all the term ‘food and nutrition security’ does not necessarily mean ‘food security’ + ‘nutrition security’; neither linguistically nor conceptually. It may mean what it says – ‘food’ + ‘nutrition security’.

2.    Second, ‘nutrition security’ conceptually requires ‘food security’, ‘health security’ and adequate ‘caring practices’. Each of the three represents necessary conditions for ‘nutrition security’, while none of them alone is a sufficient condition for ‘nutrition security’.

3.    All this is a logical deduction from the Conceptual Framework of the Causality of Malnutrition launched by UNICEF in 1990 . It is quite remarkable that the Committee on World Food Security more than 20 years later suggests to define a concept that is not consistent with this framework that has been adopted by almost every organisation and scholar working in the field of nutrition. It is obviously no longer about science – it is about something else.

4.    This conceptual confusion is reflected in several statements in the current Draft. For example, the statement (p.4), “The relationship between food and nutrition is straightforward from a technical perspective”, is not at all correct! A review of the last 30 yeas of scientific papers and reports makes that very clear. For those of us who have participated in that long discussion, the statement from a scientific and philosophical point of view is non-sense.

5.    Conclusions and recommendations

  • It should not surprise anyone that such a complex issue like the relationships between food, nutrition and other irreducible linkages is likely to require and actually benefit from the use of several concepts. Out of the four concepts discussed in the Draft, three are correct and should be used when appropriate, while one, the proposed term ‘food and nutrition security’, should not be used at all. The following comments  reflect this conclusion.
  • Food security: A well-defined and appropriate concept since 1974
  • Food security and nutrition: This concept has a meaning, and may be useful in planning food-based nutrition approaches. ‘Health security and Nutrition’ is a similar concept.
  • Food and nutrition security: This concept has no meaning. Should never be used.
  • Nutrition security = Household food security + Health security + Adequate care. This is the UNICEF defined concept that is correct according to the authors of the Draft themselves
Lo Scalzo Vincenzo AgoràAmbrosiana, Italy
Lo Scalzo Vincenzo

Reference is made to "Presentation of a master plan to be proposed by AgoraAmbrosiana and TN for a global debate of Food Security and Nutrition in occasion of the event of Milano EXPO 2015."
V. Lo Scalzo and A. Pasquale

In the presentation of a plan of debates by AgoraAmbrosiana the theme has been selected as: CIBO e SICUREZZA ALIMENTARE. This definition translates in "FOOD AND NUTRITION SECURITY", of which we were happy because the protagonist of debate is FOOD, in all and every acception, as well as SECURITY is the co-protagonist in any and every acception of risk to NUTRITION.

FOOD=CIBO in all acception include all raw edible materia on Earth surface and undersurface (land and waters), air as atmosphere and stratosphere, underwater or underground. In any form and shape. WATER is dominant.
SECURITY=SICUREZZA is to be interpreted as safety of risk to access, of certainty, of safety, of health, of guarantee, of value, of protection, of conservation, of availability.
ALIMENTARE=FOOD, FEEDING, is solely and specifically relevant to NUTRITION, for all class of humans and animals, based on any kind of vegetative crops and derivatives, all living bodies, derivatives, milks, meats.

Text of the cited presentation:

Presentation of a master plan to be proposed by AgoraAmbrosiana and TN for a global debate of Food Security and Nutrition in occasion of the event of Milano EXPO 2015.
V. Lo Scalzo and A. Pasquale

We anticipated already the decision to take part to the open Global Strategic Framework launched by FAO-GSF as a relevant occasion to implement a potential programme of public debates that we try to suggest since now to the Executive Committee of Milano EXPO 2015. The heart of the event to be held in 2015 shall become the occasion for a place and space of a global event to present and discuss the theme (as they appear in the official plan) of Milan EXPO 2015 “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”.

Since the finalization by GIE of the planned event for 2015, most of the attention by the Executive Committee has been paid to the more intensive financial, social, international issues of the complex organization to envisage and implement than to the cultural, social, international fundamental challenge of the 6 months debate on safe food alternatives and future resources to provide to the living society of the Planet.

Under this stimulation, in parallel to the efforts of coverage made by the international Planet’s organizations converging in the Society of Nations and to the specific coordination of the efforts for implementation of efficient plans of intervention, Agora as AgoraAmbrosiana, a cultural association created in Milan, Italy, has started the compilation of a draft plan for coordination of open debates on the theme “Cibo e sicurezza alimentare”. The scope to cope with the variety of problems met by the human society in the variety of the territories and environment of the Planet is taken as preliminary target of the event.

A first occasion to contribute to the social mission of ONU and FAO and to the complex plan to be undertaken by the Executive Committee of Milano EXPO, was given to AA and TN by the reception of the theme by the G 8 and G 20 free meetings planned in this season. The aim is to be ready to implement an initiative on the field by the most exposed and interested governments of the globe, namely to be agreed and ratified in occasion of the next meeting in Nice in November 2011, planned into a draft programme by the G20 meeting of June in Paris. The initial scope to sustain the recommendations of the Italian Senate and Chamber debate, which gave authorization to the Italian authority delegate to make part and approve the official joint proposal edited at end of the meeting in June 2011.

We are personally convinced that the state of the DRAFT of CIBO E SICUREZZA ALIMENTARE PER G 20, updated to the present date, could be a useful guide to consider also for integration in the presumed debate and preparation of an international confrontation to succed in the scope aimed by the CFS for preparation of a “LIVING DOCUMENT” valuable “to improve coordination and guide actions towards a more secure world” as stated by the CFS chair Noel de Luna.

The form of the DRAFT is naïf, in a first attempt to be defined in the proper style and format of a larger and detailed document. The form of the draft could be appreciated to extract the useful inputs (some originally deriving by direct multidisciplinary experiences of the small team of partners) to the scope of its final mission.
My personal ongoing suggestion is to go through the index of the debates reported by “Discussions up to 10 Aug 2011 - Forum on Food Security and Nutrition_ Forum Discussions.pdf” to check if each issue of the collection could get a place in the “first hand” list of Theme/sub themes/Tasks/Targets” of the complex plan of debates in DRAFT, as is.

Our partnership is completely independent and not supported by any of the national and international bodies that we count to contact to offer our open cooperation. Our offer will appear shortly also internationally through AgoraAmbrosiana group in Linkedin.

FAO-GSF as well as MILANO EXPO are a priority contact to start a screening phase of potential cooperation for a contribution to the relevant Framework for Food Security and Nutrition as well as to Ministero degli Esteri and Ministero della Salute of the Italian Government, to Regione Lombardia’s Governor as nominee Executive Officer for Milan EXPO charged with the compliance of the event with the agreed programme approved by GIE.

Access to the state of art of draft of CIBO E SICUREZZA ALIMENTARE PER G 20, August 1, is available.

George Kent Department of Political Science, University of Hawai'i, Estados Unidos de ...

Greetings –

Here is a discussion of terminology from pp. 21-23 of my book, Freedom from Want: The Human Right to Adequate Food, Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2005. A no-cost download of the book is available at


Words like hunger and starvation have strong emotional impact, but are rarely used as technical terms by specialists in the field. There are no measures and no published data on starvation as such. The experts prefer to use terms such as food insecurity or malnutrition.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:
Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Food security is concerned with questions relating to the food supply, but nutrition status depends not only on suitable food but also on good basic health services and, particularly for children, adequate care. Malnutrition generally results not from a lack of food in the community but from the skewed distribution of the food that is available. That skew results because some people are too poor or too powerless to make an adequate claim on the food that is available. . . .

The FAO equates food insecurity with the more popular concept of hunger. It also distinguishes between undernourishment and undernutrition. Undernourishment refers to an inadequate supply of food, and is assessed by estimating food supplies. Undernutrition, however, refers to the physiological consequences, and is assessed on the basis of anthropometric measures, that is, people's weights and heights. . . . [N]utrition status, as an outcome, results not only from the quality of food but also from the qualities of care and health services, as inputs. Food status is one major factor determining nutrition status. The other two major factors are care and health services. Thus, we can say that nutrition status depends on food status, care status, and health status.

There is now increasing attention to the concept of nutrition security. This term has been defined as the "appropriate quantity and combination of inputs such as food, nutrition an health services, and caretaker’s time needed to ensure an active and healthy life."

Food security focuses on the food component of nutrition security. Thus, food security and nutrition security are different. The FAO's Sixth World Food Survey showed that while food inadequacy is more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa than in South Asia, the incidence of malnutrition (or, more precisely, undernutrition) based on anthropometric measures is higher in South Asia. The study suggests that the discrepancy is largely due to differences in disease patterns. Most life-threatening malnutrition occurs among children, but children do not require very large amounts of food. There can be widespread malnutrition in a population even while food security measures indicate the food situation is relatively good. Millions of children worldwide die each year as a result of diarrhea, for example, but this has little to do with the level of food supply in their communities or even in their households.
There are many different aspects or dimensions of human security. Food security is one component of nutrition security, together with health security and care security. . . .

The literature often fails to make a clear distinction between status and security. The understanding proposed here is based on the idea that, in its most general form, security means freedom from fear of harm. Particular kinds of security refer to freedom from fear of particular kinds of harms. Thus, physical security refers to freedom from fear of physical harm, environmental security means freedom from fear of environmental harm, and so on. In this understanding, status refers to current conditions, while security refers to anticipated conditions.

It would have been useful if FAO consistently used the term food inadequacy, rather than food insecurity, to describe the condition of inadequate food supplies when they are assessing conditions that are current at a given point in time, not conditions that are anticipated from that moment in time. This terminology would make it easier to distinguish between food status and food security.

Just as we can say that nutrition status depends on food status, care status, and health status, we can also say that nutrition security depends on food security, care security, and health security.

The distinction between nutrition status and nutrition security is particularly useful when assessing different kinds of interventions intended to respond to nutrition problems. Straightforward feeding programs may be very helpful in improving people's current nutrition status. However, they do nothing to improve their nutrition security. Such interventions respond to symptoms, and not to the underlying sources of the problem. Indeed, if people come to depend on such feeding programs, these programs may in fact weaken their nutrition security. In a perverse way, feeding programs, responding only to symptoms, may actually help to sustain problems, rather than end them. You don’t solve the hunger problem by feeding people.

Improving nutrition security would require introducing some sort of change in the local social and institutional arrangements, or providing training or tools or some other resources that could change things over the long run. Nutrition interventions should be assessed not so much on the basis of their immediate impact but on the impacts they are likely to have over the long run, long after the interventions have ended.

The difference between nutrition status and nutrition security may seem slight, but the significance is that the security concept takes account of the institutional measures that come into play. To illustrate, you are interested not only in whether your house is currently on fire, but also in whether there are adequate institutional arrangements in place to put out a fire if and when one should occur. Or, to offer a more appropriate illustration, if you have washed up on a desert island and just eaten your last can of beans, your nutrition status may be alright, but your nutrition security is bleak.”

I would add here that, despite FAO’s sometimes equating food security with hunger, I feel that food security should be understood as a more comprehensive concept, important to people at all levels of income. For example, issues of food safety and food supply in disaster situations are food security concerns for everyone. The question of whether infant formula is nutritionally adequate is a food security question that is relevant everywhere.

Aloha, George Kent

Dr. Lisa Kitinoja The Postharvest Education Foundation, Estados Unidos de América

Thank you for posting this discussion topic -- as a horticultural scientist and educator, this subject has been of keen interest to me for many years. "Food security" seems to be measured in terms of people's access to calories, putting high calorie staple food like grains and root crops in the forefront, while most fruits and vegetables, excellent sources of nutritious vitamins, minerals and micro-nutrients, have been largely neglected. Even when hort crops have been included in research studies or field based projects, the focus has stayed on increasing production, while only 5% of global ag dev resources have gone to postharvest aspects (the reduction of the current high rate of postharvest losses, and the maintainence of quality, food safety and nutritonal value). I would hope the term "Food and nutrition security" would better capture some of these missing elements.