#PHTwitJC 14 *Sun 27 May*: Sustainable Food Systems in Europe

Fruit and veg stall

Rayner, Barling and Lang (2008) Sustainable food systems in Europe: policies, realities and futures. Full text available here.

Join in by signing into Twitter and searching for the #PHTwitJC  hashtag – remember to use it if you want to contribute (further instructions for joining a Twitter chat are available at the ‘About’ tab, above).

This is the first time that PHTwitJC has selected a review-type article to discuss, as opposed to a primary research study/ systematic review.We hope to have an interesting discussion on policies for achieving food security and sustainability in Europe and beyond.

About the paper

The authors review food and agriculture policy in the European Union (EU) over a number of decades. A tension is identified beteween the EU ‘s commitment to sustainable development on the one hand, and competitiveness/ economic growth on the other.

The authors present a framework for doing an ecological public health* analysis of policy-making, which is applied to food policy. They suggest that the framework is a ‘simplifying mechanism’ that ensures analytic emphasis on all four domains  that influence human existence; whilst acknowledging complexity.   The four domains identified are:

1.    Material /physical world

2.    Physiological world

3.    Social world

4.    Cognitive world (lifeworld)Supermarket shopping

Environmental, cultural and health ‘frontlines’ of the struggles relating to food policy in the EU are discussed. Marked transitions are identifiable  in the economics of food and its place in culture(s).   These are related to nutrition  and health transitions: the shift towards diets dominated more by processed foods, saturated fats and sugars; and towards a non-communicable disease burden.

Tensions are highlighted, for example, between the types of food production and distribution  that are supported; and the EU’s declared position on human health and nutrition, and on sustainable environmental policies. Voluntary self-regulation by producers and retailers of food (in the areas of marketing and labelling, for example) has had mixed results.

The authors argue for integrated food-related policy that  must address all the above domains, in order to resolve some of the tensions, and develop in a sustainable way.

Areas for discussion in #PHTwitJC  include:

  • Is the analytic framework presented clear? Is it applied appropriately?
  • Is the argument logically developed and supported with valid evidence/examples?
  • What is the main contribution of the article: what new knowledge/ understanding is achieved of the issue?
  • What lessons can we take from the article, for public health policy/practice development?
  •  What developments have their been since the article’s publication in 2008, that might reinforce or challenge the article’s assertions?


* Rayner and Lang’s recently published book on Ecological Public Health (Routledge, 2012) sets out this framework and argument in much more detail.

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2 Responses to #PHTwitJC 14 *Sun 27 May*: Sustainable Food Systems in Europe

  1. Geof Rayner says:

    From Geof Rayner, co-author Ecological Public Health: Reshaping the Conditions of Good Health

    I’ve just come across this site. I think it’s brilliant. For those interesting in this topics and raised in our work please come to our mini-symposium to debate the meaning and role of public health in modern society, held to coincide with the Rio+20 (UN Conference on Sustainable Development) where the world’s leaders and nations meet to discuss sustainable development.

    Ecological Public Health: creating alternatives to (health) business-as-usual?

    Thursday, June 21 2012

    · 1730 tea for arrival

    · 1800-1930 Symposium

    · 1930-2030 Reception

    Venue: Oliver Thompson Lecture Theatre and foyer, City University London, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB (map: http://www.city.ac.uk/visit)

    After a highly charged public debate about the future of healthcare (as the NHS Bill went through Parliament), now is the time to talk about the shape of public health itself. This mini-symposium is an opportunity to do that. It will discuss whether ecological public health – which proposes that human and eco-systems health are co-dependent – needs to be the central policy framework. This mini-symposium is a chance to explore questions such as:

    · Does ecological public health provide a new rallying point for policy and practice?

    · As Rio+20 debates the future, what can the UK do to promote ecological public health?

    · Are national and local efforts adequately aligned?

    · How can the public be helped to rebalance from a consumerist to an ecological approach to health?

    · What are the priorities to facilitate a better match of human bodies and eco-systems?

    · Where is the political engagement?

    Short presentations / cases will be made by:

    · Dr Fiona Sims (Chair), editor of Public Health (on behalf of the Royal Society for Public Health)

    · Dr Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion

    · Dr John Middleton, Director, Public Health Sandwell, Vice-President, Faculty of Public Health

    · Dr David Pencheon, Director, NHS Sustainable Development Unit

    · Dr Geof Rayner, Research Fellow, City University

    There will then be a Q&A / discussion of the issues raised.

    The evening ends with a reception in the foyer outside.

    This event is being hosted by the City University London’s Centre for Food Policy and the Development and Alumni Office. It is an open event. There is no cost to attend but please reply and book (to help catering planning). Geof Rayner & Tim Lang’s new book: Ecological Public Health (Routledge/Earthscan) will be available.


    • Kate Thomson says:

      Thanks Geof, great to hear from you.
      Looks an excellent event, although I don’t think I am able to attend. I have circulated the details to our Twitter followers.

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