In September 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released its second annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report. The report serves to monitor progress made towards achieving a world without hunger and malnutrition, within the context of the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainability Development Goals.
The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) endorses the multisectoral approach suggested by FAO, which states that, “Actions need to be accelerated and scaled up to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems, people’s livelihoods, and nutrition…” IFAC acknowledges that the food industry alone cannot deliver solutions that address the main drivers of hunger and malnutrition; however, there is a critically important role industry can play to help alleviate this global crisis.
In 2017, a staggering 821 million people were reported to be suffering from hunger. This corresponds to nearly 11 percent of the world’s population. Discouragingly, between 2014 and 2017, rather than seeing a decrease in the total number of people suffering from hunger, the numbers increased by 37.3 million people. While most hungry people live in lower-to-middle-income countries, hunger and lack of reliable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food are complex global problems. The UN report stresses that climate change and political conflicts are the key drivers behind the 2014 reversal in the progress made during the second half of the twentieth century towards reducing hunger and malnutrition.
A lack of access to adequate food and nutrition is caused by an array of factors, some of which can be addressed through food industry efforts. As an association representing companies who produce and use food ingredients, one of IFAC’s main objectives is to unite and cultivate a responsible and sustainable global food environment. IFAC members utilize both traditional and innovative technologies, as well as modern food science, to help support sustainable food strategies and minimize food waste.
For example, one IFAC member has developed a plant-derived invisible, edible coating that slows the rate by which fresh produce typically degrades, thereby increasing the shelf life and protecting the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables. This product has shown tremendous potential to provide populations in isolated geographies and developing countries with access to fresh produce without reliance on cost-prohibitive or infrastructure-intensive food preservation technologies such as refrigeration. Another IFAC member utilizes microbial food cultures found commonly in cheese and other foods for “bioprotection,” in which the cultures are used to keep products such as yogurt fresh longer. Using microbial cultures in this way not only helps prevent waste, but also helps protect and increase yields in the agricultural sector. Furthermore, several other members produce stabilizing ingredients that help formulate foods that are shelf-stable under ambient conditions and extend the shelf-life of products traditionally in need of refrigeration. This not only helps ensure nutritious products can be transported to remote areas more easily, but also enables equity in the food system by providing equal access to the same health benefits afforded by nutritious yet perishable products.
The FAO report determines that, “The signs of increasing food insecurity and high levels of different forms of malnutrition are a clear warning of the urgent need for considerable additional work to ensure we ‘leave no one behind’ on the road towards achieving the SDG goals on food security and nutrition.” IFAC supports FAO’s efforts to monitor and communicate progress towards eradicating world hunger and stands by its member companies whose products are contributing to this goal.