Challenges and opportunities when moving food production and consumption toward sustainable diets in the Nordics: a scoping review for Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2023

Helle Margrete Meltzer*, Hanna Eneroth, Maijaliisa Erkkola, Ellen Trolle, Peter Fantke, Juha Helenius, Jørgen Eivind Olesen, Merja Saarinen, Amund Maage, Trond Arild Ydersbond

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewpeer-review

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Abstract

The terms ‘Nordic countries’ or ‘The Nordics’ include the five countries Denmark, Finland, Island, Norway, and Sweden. This review includes evaluation of the Nordic countries against Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)/World Health Organizations’ (WHO) guiding principles for healthy, sustainable diets with respect to environmental impact (principles #9 – #13) and sociocultural aspects (principles #14 – #16). A food systems perspective is taken to summarize and discuss the most important challenges and opportunities for achieving sustainable diets. Food system, food security, self-sufficiency, and resilience perspectives are applied. The information can underpin decisions when developing and implementing Food Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG) in the Nordics.
None of the Nordic countries are on track to reach the 2030 UN climate and biodiversity goals. We describe how food production, processing, and consumption contribute to these and other environmental challenges, and what kinds of dietary changes/transitions consistent with these goals are required.
A major challenge is the high production and consumption of meat and too low consumption of fish, vegetables, and fruits. Meat production is a major source of emissions and, together with farmed fish, heavily dependent on imported feed ingredients, leaving a large land-use and water footprint in exporting countries while domestic land resources are not used optimally. Dietary patterns have changed drastically over the past 50 years, and in large parts of the population, meat consumption has doubled since the 1970s, rendering historic food culture less useful as a basis for present-day recommendations. The Nordics have Europe’s lowest use of antibiotics in animal and fish production and have made some progress in reducing food waste along the food chain. A major opportunity is better alignment of food consumption and production based on local or regional production potentials, in conjunction with better and more constructive integration with the global food system while integrating novel technologies to reduce emissions and resource use.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10489
JournalFood & Nutrition Research
Volume68
Number of pages38
ISSN1102-6510
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Keywords

  • The Nordics
  • Sustainability
  • Diet
  • Food production
  • Food consumption

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