Three-in-four Europeans want EU governments or regulators in Brussels to take action to lower the cost of food that is healthy and sustainable. At a time of rising food inflation, 76% of people said their governments should make sustainable food more affordable – and half believe that unsustainable food products should be made more expensive to encourage shoppers to make healthier and more sustainable food choices.
Commissioned by WWF, the survey also showed that four in five Europeans believe that their governments and the EU should make ‘new rules’ as well as providing financial support to tip the scales in the favour of sustainably produced food. In their view, governments should particularly target public canteens, schools, grocery shops, food manufacturers and farmers, according to WWF.
“Europeans want change, but unless our governments and the EU take action, families will continue to struggle to access sustainable, healthy food - let alone afford it. Rising inflation has exposed the shortcomings of our food systems and the EU’s dependence on imported agricultural inputs,” argued Giulia Riedo, Agriculture and Food Systems Policy Officer at the WWF European Policy Office.
Promote plant-based, local food: Survey
According to the survey, 73% of Europeans think that policy-makers at national and EU levels should take action to prevent food shortages. Action to incentivise the consumption of local products and slashing food waste were the preferred options to achieve this.
The research also showed a significant proportion of people want the EU to wade into the plant-based debate. Almost half of respondents, 48%, stated that the EU should ‘encourage people to eat fewer animal products’, with 46% suggesting the EU should reduce the use of cropland for feed production. “Currently, the EU produces more animal products than is recommended for our health and more than half of the grain crops we grow are fed to animals,” WWF stressed.
Citizens also believe that governments should address the ‘powerful influence’ of food advertisements on eating habits. Around half of Europeans, 57%, agree that public funds should not be used to advertise unhealthy and/or unsustainable food, and more than a third (36%) would go as far as completely banning these adverts. Currently, unhealthy and environmentally unfriendly diets cause 2.7 million deaths in Europe each year, according to data from the Global Nutrition Report.
A framework for sustainable food systems
The results of the survey were announced while the European Commission is working on an EU legislative framework for sustainable food systems, due to be completed in 2023. Part of the Farm to Fork Strategy, this new law aims to integrate sustainability into all food-related policies, while addressing the links between healthy people, healthy societies and a healthy planet.
Riedo said the upcoming EU Sustainable Food System Law ‘is the one and only opportunity in sight to address these problems’.
“The best option for our planet and health should also be the most accessible. Food is our source of life and how we produce and consume it has a tremendous impact on the climate and on biodiversity - and citizens are increasingly aware of this. Rethinking and transforming our food systems should be a top priority of the EU policy agenda,” concluded the policy expert.