Metrics, Models and Foresight for European Sustainable Food And Nutrition Security (SUSFANS)

Strengthening food and nutrition security in Europe requires a turnaround towards sustainable consumption and production. Wageningen University & Research is part of a consortium of industry and science that will identify how food production and nutritional health can be aligned. This is a shared responsibility between farmers, companies, consumers and government at national and EU levels: to ensure that food produced and consumed ‘scores better’ in terms of health and the environment. The researchers develop suitable metrics, models and foresights on future food and nutrition security. The outcomes will help to underpin more integrated EU policies in this field.

The effect of consumers’ behaviour on nutritional patterns is the key theme in the European project SUSFANS, which is running for four years from April 2015.

“We’re investigating consumer choices and want to determine a desirable European nutritional pattern, with healthy and sustainably produced food,” says Achterbosch. The Dutch Dairy Association and European companies such as DSM and Unilever are actively involved in the project.

Strengthening food and nutrition security (FNS) in the EU requires sustainable food consumption and production. To gauge the policy reforms needed for this major societal challenge, the SUSFANS-consortium will identify how food production and nutritional health in the EU can be aligned. The multidisciplinary research agenda of SUSFANS will build the conceptual framework, the evidence base and analytical tools for underpinning EU-wide food policies with respect to their impact on consumer diet and their implications for nutrition and public health, the environment, the competitiveness of the EU agri-food sectors, and global FNS. Based on a conceptual model of the food chain and its stakeholders, SUSFANS will develop suitable metrics and identify major drivers for sustainable FNS, integrate data and modelling, and develop foresight for European sustainable FNS.

Nutrition and sustainability are core business for large companies. Combining these two is new. Companies want to know what else they can do to make sure their products score better in terms of health and the environment.
Thom Achterbosch, Wageningen Economic Research

Central asset is an integrated toolbox which integrates two complementary strands of state-of-the-art quantitative analysis:

  • micro-level modelling of nutrient intakes, habitual dietary patterns and preferences of individual consumers, and
  • macro-level modelling of food demand and supply in the context of economic, environmental and demographic changes on various time-scales and for multiple sub-regions.

The tools will bridge the current gap between policy analysis on the EU agri-food sector and the nutrition-health sector. Case studies and scenarios based on stakeholder input from consumers, food industry, farmers/fishermen, government and the scientific community, are instrumental in achieving this goal. The project will provide a comprehensive assessment of FNS in Europe, centred around the implications of the current diet for the sustainability of production and consumption in the EU, and the options for the EU agri-food sector (including fisheries and aquaculture) to improve future diets in the near future (up to 5 years) and in the long run (one or more decades ahead).