Malnutrition is affecting both the developing and developed world. To date one in three people face at least one form of malnutrition, and with that combat the consequences of an inadequate diet.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 815 million people are chronically undernourished, with another 2 billion people suffering from “hidden hunger”; they consume enough calories but not the appropriate amount of micronutrients. Meanwhile, almost two billion people are overweight or obese. If current trends continue, the problem will affect 2.7 billion adults in 2025. They will be more prone to heart disease, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases, reducing quality of life, whilst simultaneously placing a massive burden on national healthcare systems.
Nutrition underpins every person’s ability to grow, learn, and work, and suffering from malnutrition has been proven to have a dramatic impact on long-term life outcomes. Put simply, the right nutrition allows us to fulfill our potential, but a lot of people are missing out. Investing in nutrition can unlock socio-economic gains, affecting educational and employment outcomes, long-term health outcomes and the economy.
Not surprisingly, nutrition has become a global public health priority in the last few years, which is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); 2 of the 17 SDGs are directly linked to nutrition while in total 12 of the 17 SDGs cannot be reached without nutrition related actions.
While much of the focus of development institutions, research bodies and funders has been placed on identifying the determinants of malnutrition, potential policy solutions and direct interventions, little focus has been placed on assessing the role of the private sector in fighting malnutrition thus far.
As benchmarking companies create awareness and drive change (source: World Benchmarking Alliance, 2017), the Access to Nutrition Foundation has taken up the role of assessing F&B manufacturers’ contributions to making healthy food affordable and accessible. Since 2013, every two years, ATNF publishes manufacturers’ nutrition and progress in Global Access to Nutrition Indexes and specific Country Spotlight Indexes.
With the increase in proportional consumption of packaged foods, F&B manufacturers play a significant role in shaping consumers’ choices and behavior relating to food. Hence, business is closely involved in the nutrition crisis, whether we see it as the problem, the solution or – most likely – a little of both. This is not only in their social, but also in their economic and financial interest. Consumers worldwide increasingly demand healthier packaged foods and become more aware of the need to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. By fortifying products with vitamins and minerals, and by making products affordable and accessible to poor populations, companies can also contribute to fighting all forms of hunger.
This month, during the Global Goals week that mark the anniversary of the SDGs, initiatives like the launch of the Goalkeepers by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Global Compact Progress report https://www.unglobalcompact.org/library/5431, have demonstrated that positively contributing to the SDGs is possible.
In spring 2018, The Access to Nutrition Foundation will publish the progress that the 22 largest global companies have made on their nutrition commitments since the 2016 Index, and therefore how they are contributing to the SDGs.
We have good hopes that more efforts are now being made to achieve a world without hunger, where all consumers have access to healthy and affordable food and thus have the opportunity of living a healthy life. Yet also the Global Index 2018 will teach us where the private sector can and should do more.
For more information about the Access to Nutrition Foundation and the Access to Nutrition Indexes, please visit www.accesstonutrition.org
The Access to Nutrition Index rates food and beverage manufacturers´ nutrition-related policies, practices and disclosures worldwide on a recurring basis.
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