There are considerable obstacles to integrating public health concerns into European agricultural policy. Advocates for healthy food and drink environments are routinely confronted with an oversimplified narrative about growth and jobs. But times are changing; in the recent debates around developing a more sustainable and broader food policy, the discussion is moving beyond the agriculture sector and public health is taking centre stage.
The food policy approach recognises that the food system, with processing, distribution and retail at its core, shapes people’s eating patterns as well as farmers’ incomes and is responsible for vast ecological and social impacts that affect our health both directly (nutrition, air pollution) and indirectly (climate change).
In March 2016, the European Public Health Alliance coorganised an event with the European Environmental Bureau bringing together leading food policy experts in Europe and afterwards over 100 organisations throughout Europe, including 10 public health groups, demanded a fundamental assessment (“Refit”) of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The open letter noted that the agricultural sector faces multiple crises, in terms of farmers’ livelihoods, depletion of natural resources and not least negative impacts on public health, which merit an urgent review of the policy.
For more information about a sustainable food policy go to the epha.eu website