January 18, 2021
International Congress Berlin
Farm & Food 4.0

13. August 2019

Simone Frey on Sustainable Diets

Transparency enables conscious and healthy consumer choices

By Sarah Liebigt

How can and how must we eat in order to eat healthily and at the same time adapt our consumer behaviour to the drastically changing climatic conditions? Furthermore: What we consume must be produced. Agriculture and food or fields and plates belong together. Dr Simone Frey, co-founder of Nutrition Hub, spoke with Farm & Food about romanticizing agriculture and creating better value behind food production.

Farm & Food: Food and nutrition are fully in line with the trend. On Instagram every ordinary dish looks like a work of art and the right diet has long since become a question of faith. As an expert, how do you assess the current situation?
Simone Frey: In general, it’s a very good situation. We nutritionists have been working towards this for years. Today, consumers know that a healthy diet is the best investment in their own health and the best basis for a long life. The fact that food and nutrition have become a question of faith has to do with the fact that the most important value systems, family and religion, have lost importance. With nutrition one can create a social affiliation, which only became possible through social media.

On the one hand this is good, because everyone can have a say. On the other hand it’s bad, because in many cases unhealthy diets are created by non-experts. And in the worst case this can lead to malnutrition: Influencer Yovana Mendoza, who has developed her own vegan diet, ended up in hospital a few weeks ago because of malnutrition. A study by Health Feedback showed that 75 percent of the top ten most read articles on health on social avoidance contained false or misleading information. So back to the question: The situation is good, now we just have to make sure that consumers get credible information about nutrition.

In the book trade several nourishing councellors, which could not be more different, are equal. What do you think constitutes a healthy diet?
The nutrition councellors, which stand on the best-seller lists, are not written in x Prozent of the cases by nourishing experts. Ernährungsexpertin, are nourishing scientists, ÖkotrophologInnen, Di?tassistentInnen or nourishing medical profession inside. There is a completely clear scientific data situation, how a healthy nutrition looks like:

  1. Enjoy the variety of food
  2. Vegetables and fruit: Take five a day
  3. Choose wholemeal
  4. Complete your selection with meat
  5. Pick health friendly fats
  6. Reduce sugar and salt
  7. Drink water
  8. Cook vegetables gently
  9. Watch your daily diet and enjoy food
  10. Pay attention to your weight and stay active

These are the recommendations of the German Nutrition Society. The recommendations are based on the results of nutrition research, which we can safely say will keep us healthy and lead to a long life. One thing is certain: according to a study by the DGE, we consume too much meat in Germany: Men over 1000 g meat, meat products and sausages per week, 300 to 600 g per week are recommended for health reasons.

In the DGE more than 40 professors are working on providing the German population with publications on nutrition which they can trust, which do not make them ill but healthy. A result, which has substantially more weight than one possibly self-proclaimed nourishing guru, who shares its personal history in a best-seller.

What we consume must also be produced. From our point of view, agriculture and food or arable land and plates belong together. What advantages do you see from this point of view?
For me, from field to plate means that consumers understand agriculture and food production. If I know what it means to keep animals or to grow cereals, then I also accept the value, i.e. the price, of a food product. We have completely lost touch with food production.
We also have a distorted picture of agriculture when I think of my daughter’s picture books: We should stop romanticizing agriculture. It is an industry that has become highly efficient. Let us face these facts and ask ourselves how we can make this production healthy and sustainable for ten billion people in 2050.

The contrast between the allegedly evil agriculture and the stingy consumer is still en vogue: In agriculture, what is internationally competitive must be produced, and at the supermarket checkout, the lowest prices want to be captured by the scanner. In addition, trade now advertises regionality and sustainability in a contemporary way. How will this work? Which new value creation networks are necessary and how can farmers be paid for environmental services, sustainability, biodiversity and climate protection?
Last weekend I went to a Biergarten where the bratwurst cost 2.95 euros and the potato with sour cream 5.95 euros. That shocked me, especially because as an ecrophologist I know what processes are behind a bratwurst and what processes are behind a baked potato. This pricing is out of all proportion if you look at the value added behind it. If the procress of food production is more transparent for consumers, they can make a more conscious decision for or against certain products.

I also think we need more mission-driven companies. For example, you can look at whether a company is B Corp certified. B Corp is a certification for companies that use their business in a way that makes society and the environment as important as making a profit. A few food companies such as Alpro or Innocent are B Corp certified. Climate change and consumer change mean that not only agriculture, but also nutrition must change.

Agriculture must evolve from a supply market to a demand market. What concepts do you see in this context, for example, how can both be reconciled through personalised nutrition?
When it comes to nutrition, the term “personalised nutrition” is on everyone’s lips. But what is that? “Each individual has a unique metabolism. Personalized nutrition is the ability to provide nutrition and lifestyle tips that are tailored to personal preferences and lifestyle, social environment, genetic data and microbial/blood levels. This optimizes health,” is the definition of Europe’s leading consultant in this field, Dr. Mariette Abrahams. The advantages of personalised nutrition in relation to agricultural production are above all that processes become more efficient: If we know the nutritional needs of the population, we can produce much more efficiently.

If we assume that our food system will have to produce healthy food for people and the environment in the future, shouldn’t we talk about Sustainable Diet instead of Low Fat and co? What significance does sustainable nutrition have for you?
Sustainable nutrition is very important to me. It is the diet that the DGE and nutritionists have been recommending for years. This diet is healthy for people and healthy for the planet.

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