WWF Livewell report aims for ‘diets that are good for both people and the planet’

WWF Livewell report aims for ‘diets that are good for both people and the planet’

A new World Wildlife Research Fund (WWF) report, Eating for 2 Degrees – New and Updated Livewell Plates, calls on the UK Government and Climate Change Committee to set goals for reducing emissions from the food sector. Following-up from the original 2011 WWF Livewell report, it aims to ‘provide diets that are good for both people and the planet.’

There are new plates developed specifically for adolescents (10­­–17 years old), adults (18–64), the elderly (65–85) and vegans. They illustrate the absolute minimal dietary changes needed by 2030 to keep below a two-degree rise in global temperature, as per the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. The new Livewell Plates are described as,”representative diets that meet national nutritional requirements while reducing the environmental footprint of the food system that produces them.”

The Plates were based on modelling from Public Health England’s Eatwell Guide and current dietary intakes as baselines. They aim to create a diet with the fewest possible changes to current recommendations while meeting the restrictions imposed. In general, they contain more plant foods, particularly those that are nutrient dense such as vegetables, wholegrain cereals products, nuts, legumes and vegetable oils.

This report builds on thinking on healthy sustainable diets that we are increasingly seeing from consumer and public health organisations and think tanks. And the WWF believe it’s time that the UK Government implements healthy eating advice that also integrates sustainability.

The authors hope to develop additional Plates in future, including one for infants and primary school children, as well as country-specific Plates.

What are the Livewell Principles?

People are advised to follow the following Livewell Principles:

  1. Eat more plants – enjoy vegetables and whole grains
  2. Eat a variety of foods – have a colourful plate
  3. Waste less food – one third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted
  4. Moderate your meat consumption, both red and white – enjoy other sources of protein such as peas, beans and nuts
  5. Buy food that meets a credible certified standard – consider MSC, free-range and fair trade
  6. Eat fewer foods high in fat, salt and sugar – keep foods such as cakes, sweets and chocolate as well as cured meat, fries and crisps to an occasional treat. Choose water, avoid sugary drinks and remember that juices only account for one of your 5-a-day however much you drink.

Changes we think should be implemented in light of the report

  • Food businesses including manufacturers and caterers should be looking at ways of including more plant foods in general into their products and menus, and using credible certified standards where these are available.
  • Food service in particular can look at ways of promoting their expanding range of plant-based options. A new scheme from Veganuary, The Humane League UK and Vegan Chef Day gives a good example of raising awareness.
  • Retailers should be looking at ways of shifting their promotional budgets away from high fat, salt, sugar foods and towards the core foods in the Eatwell Guide and Livewell Plates.
  • We are already seeing a shift in reported consumption of animal products by consumers. A recent report from Mintel suggesting 28% of Brits have reduced or limited their meat consumption in the last six months. Consumers can further support their efforts towards more sustainable diets by thinking more holistically – eating more plants, wasting less, and so on.
Will European Group tackling obesity have any impact?

Will European Group tackling obesity have any impact?

The European Commission Group on Nutrition and Physical Activity is a high-level group covering all matters related to nutrition and physical activity for tackling obesity in children. They’re creating frameworks to address the health problems endemic in every country in the Western world. As health professionals, we’re delighted.

Government representatives from all EU countries, plus Norway and Switzerland, attend the group. The UK government is represented by the Department of Health.

The driver for the obesity problem to be taken seriously at last? The ever-growing drain on economies caused by obesity-related health problems: from the cost of healthcare provision to increasing numbers of sick days taken by workers.

Meeting at least three times a year, they share experiences and strategies for tackling obesity. To date, they have published an EU Action Plan on Childhood Obesity for 2014-2020, aiming to reduce exposure of foods with high saturated fat, sugars and salt (HFSS), as well as increasing exercise.

They’ve also set frameworks that can be taken up by any country on reformulation of commercial products, focusing on reductions in HFSS. Food categories currently under review are:

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Sweetened dairy and dairy imitates
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Bread and bread products
  • Confectionary
  • Bakery products (for example cakes and cookies)
  • Ready meals (including ready to prepare products like dry soups, dried mashed potatoes, rice mixture)
  • Savoury snacks
  • Sauces (including ketchup)
  • Sugars sweetened desserts, ice cream and topping
  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • School food offer
  • Catering meals

Interestingly, baby foods are not yet covered, although it would not be a surprise if this is the next step once Public Health England’s (PHE) sugar reduction strategy for this category gets under way end of this year.

The EU-specific Commercial Food Reformulation Framework for Added Sugars is set – and is really a reflection of the PHE’s sugar reduction strategy:

  • They have proposed benchmarks for each of the above food categories.
  • They have recommended that countries set an added sugars reduction benchmark of a minimum of 10% by 2020 (vs. 2015 baseline levels).
  • They have used the same definition for ‘added sugars’ as PHE, including fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate and fruit purees.

The frameworks are guidelines with minimum requirements, rather than exact rules every country is bound to. This makes sense – countries can choose to apply them as appropriate, taking into consideration different consumer attitudes to food and nutrients.

So, for example, in the UK, the first nine food categories to come under the sugar reduction targets also used 2015 data as baseline, but we went to 5% reductions by year one and 20% reductions by year 2020.

The Group next meets at the end of the month, with an evolved nutrition labelling initiative one of the points on the agenda. Major multi-national companies are on board, including The Coca-Cola Company, Mars, Mondelez, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever.

Let’s hope that what comes out of it actually makes an impact, that it’s not just words no one follows up on. We’re certainly moving in the right direction.

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