The Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition (BCFN), based in Italy, sought to marry up the well-known food pyramid, with generation of greenhouse gases, water use and ecological footprint.
Eat-often foods like bread, pasta and whole-grains at the base of the food pyramid were seen to have a lower impact on the environmental impact than meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs towards the top, and fats, oils and sweets.
The double pyramid and the rationale behind it was presented at an open debate at the European Parliament and debated by a panel of MEPs and food policy experts. More info and a video of the event, called Healthy Food Healthy Planet, is available at http://www.barillacfn.com.
Gabriele Riccardi, Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases at the University of Naples and member of the BCFN Advisory Board, introduced the debate and emphasised the important of the model for food companies
"The BCFN believes that the role of industry, which may offer easy to use products in line with relevant nutritional guidelines, is crucial,” he said.
MEP Paolo de Castro said: "The issue of food supply, fuelled in recent years by the exponential growth in demand, particularly in some areas of the world, is leading us onto dangerous ground. Food is destined to become an insufficient and costly resource.
Today's challenge is to increase productivity, with fewer resources and less pollution."
The Barilla researchers are not the first to propose a new model combining health and nutrition and environmental impact.
In 2008 Professor Tim Lang of City University London proposed a ‘food flower’ that could be used on food product labels, with petals representing greenhouse gases, fair trade, biodiversity, packaging/water, animal welfare, nutrition and water use.
Sweden also proposed a new set of dietary guidelines combining health and environmental impact; and the German Council for Sustainable Development also published a new guide on making environmental shopping choices last year.
A report published last December by the UK’s Sustainable Consumption Commission mapped out evidence on sustainable diets and look at synergies and tensions between public health, the environment, social inequalities, and economic stability.
It concluded that reducing meat and dairy consumption, eating fewer fatty and sugary foods, and wasting less food are the three changes to consumption habits that will have the biggest impact on making diets more sustainable.