'Du bist was du isst': challenges in European nutrition policy

Alessandra Lafranconi*, Christopher A. Birt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Food cultures have developed in communities as according to the produce of local farms in the vicinity. The industrial revolution resulted in large cities and towns becoming reliant on farm produce from the neighbouring countryside; this stimulated development of farming, which itself became industrialized. However, although local diets in Europe differed markedly, the 'healthiness' of all diets was unquestioned until recently. Early in the 20th century, academic departments studying nutrition were established, but it is only since the 1980s that much interest in the 'healthiness' of our food began to be of concern outwith academia. At about this time it was becoming clear that existing patterns of farming and food production were having negative effects on the environment. Since the 1990s, environmental, farming and nutritional sciences have each progressed, but in parallel, and there has been all too little effort to unite them. However, it is clear that, in general, production of foods associated with 'unhealthy' nutrition is also the most damaging from an environmental viewpoint.

This article summarizes the evidence on current European diets, analyses costs and benefits in transitioning to healthy and sustainable diets, identifies sustainable dietary guidelines as the way forward and discusses the role of public health in achieving dietary reform in the interests of improved nutrition and environmental protection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-31
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017



Cite this