Experts push for healthier and cleaner Swiss food chain

Is it sundown for cows and carnivores? Not likely, but habits will change by 2050. Keystone / A3542/_karl-josef Hildenbrand

Less packaging, less meat, more sustainable production chains: a six-year study looking at how to feed Switzerland over the next decades has presented its findings.

This content was published on June 25, 2020

The national research programme “Healthy food and sustainable food productionExternal link” involved 26 projects between 2013 and 2019. Its findings, presented in Bern on Thursday, sketch an outline for how food habits should change between now and 2050.

The researchers grouped their recommendations around four main themes.

Firstly, waste needs to be reduced, they say. This would involve moving away from packaging designed around aesthetic rather than sustainable goals, as well as developing new forms of “intelligent packaging” that could give an indication of how fresh the food still is.

But because half of Switzerland’s food comes from beyond its borders, where packaging standards are different, the researchers say that the best way is still to avoid wastage.

Convincing the population

Secondly, meat consumption should be decreased, and the agriculture sector reformed. Less meat can improve both consumer health and the environment, the researchers say. But it would also lead to problems for many farmers. They need to be helped – notably with subsidies – to transition towards an agriculture more focused on fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Thirdly, consumers should be more involved. Without their buy-in, such a transition is not possible, the researchers say. Therefore, a greater role for consumer associations would be good – including more possibilities to launch collective action cases.

Finally, the fourth point looks at health and healthy food, which the researchers say should be promoted at all stages of the supply chain. They thus offer recommendations on pollution, best practices in canteens, and advice to individuals on illness and weight management.

The outcome of the project will feed into federal policymaking in the coming years, but it may have more trouble convincing the population: in 2017, two proposals for more food sovereignty and “fairer food” were rejected by Swiss voters.

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