By Dr Eva Lewis, Head of Food Innovation, Devenish and Humanativ
Tomorrow is World Food Day – an international day to raise awareness of malnutrition and hunger and highlight the need for food security and nutritious diets for all.
This year, World Food Day is calling for action for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all.
Our agri-food systems are like ecosystems. Everything is connected and we need to take a whole systems approach in order to tackle the challenges we are facing.
The way we produce, consume, and sadly waste food is taking its toll on our planet – it needs to change and by working together – through collective action – we can change this.
The pandemic has shone a spotlight on our food production systems, highlighting the issue of food security and inequality across the globe. It has made consumers more conscious, not only about the nutritional value of what they eat, but the environmental impact of their food.
And with the world population set to reach 10 billion by 2050, we are facing a real challenge to provide enough sustainably produced, nutritious food to feed everyone.
Malnutrition is a world health crisis
Millions of people are suffering from different forms of malnutrition, and every country in the world is affected by it.
The term malnutrition addresses three broad groups of conditions:
According to the World Health Organisation, 850 million people are chronically undernourished and over 1.9 billion people are overweight or obese due to a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle.
There are also an estimated 2 billion people suffering from ‘hidden hunger’ or micronutrient-related malnutrition – a form of undernutrition that occurs when the quality of food people eat does not meet their nutrient requirements, so they are not getting the essential vitamins and minerals they need for their growth and development.
With micronutrient deficiencies added to undernutrition and overweight/obesity, the result is known as the ‘triple burden of malnutrition’, and it is one of the biggest threats facing human health. It is not only food quantity that is important, but rather food quality.
That is why our ‘One Health, from Soil to Society’ strategy focuses on the importance of optimising nutrient utilisation right through the value chain – from soil, to plants, animals and ultimately humans and our environment.
Healthy food needs to be more accessible and more affordable
More than 3 billion people around the world cannot afford a healthy diet – that’s approximately 40% of the world’s population.
A healthy diet, as defined by the World Health Organisation, is one that helps to protect against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
It is about much more than calories – we need a wide range of nutrient dense foods to get all of the vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health.
One particular area that we have focused on through our research is the health benefits of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs), particularly DHA. Omega-3 DHA has long been associated with providing protection from heart attack, stroke, dementia and depression. The main source of this nutrient is oily fish, yet the recommended one serving per week is consumed by very few across the globe. We believe that there is a real public health need to make the consumption of Omega-3 DHA more accessible through more popular, more widely consumed foods, such as poultry meat and eggs.
Through our extensive research and development, we developed the world’s first naturally enriched omega-3 chicken and eggs with proven health claims and have recently partnered with Mara Renewables Corporation to launch a new joint venture called Humanativ to bring this product to the market. By working with Humanativ and incorporating OmegaPro into diets, meat and egg producers will be able to offer a product range with significant proven health benefits, and importantly, make on-pack nutrition and health claims in many regions of the world which will add value to their products.
Nutrition is at the heart of the matter
At Devenish, nutrition is at the heart of what we do. We are focused on creating innovative solutions that not only help to improve farm outputs while reducing environmental impacts, but also improve human health.
We continually reinvest into researching, developing and commercialising animal nutrition solutions that address the challenges facing farmers and food producers today.
Through our global network of Performance Houses, we are focused on developing new and innovative ways to improve food and feed production while reducing the impact of agriculture and food production on the environment and supporting farmers and food producers to continue to produce nutrient-rich meat, fish, milk and eggs.
A whole systems approach
We’re working with governments, farmers and industry to share our research and help make food production more sustainable.
Consumer demand for safe, nutritious, sustainably produced food is greater than ever. The long-term solution to improving human health and feeding a growing population sustainably lies in optimising nutrient flow through the food chain, from soil to society.
It is only by working together and taking a whole systems approach, we can ensure better production, better nutrition, a better environment and ultimately, a better future for all.