Climate change could provoke unhealthy food choices, warns FSA report
The report, which was carried out by the University of East Anglia for the FSA, studied the likely impact of climate change on food choices and nutrition, as well as food safety.
Food price impact
If global temperatures continue on an upward curve and extreme weather events become a more regular occurrence, food prices and availability could change significantly.
Much depends on the extent and nature of the climate changes. Research suggests, for example, that grain prices are likely to remain steady or even fall up to a 3oC temperature increase but then rise after that point.
If food prices do end up increasing then the new report suggests that public health could take a hit. Because healthier foods are often more expensive, people may turn to unhealthy options.
Of particular concern is that processed foods with a high fat and sugar content are often cheaper than less energy dense alternatives, and less affected by commodity price increases.
Other climate effects
Food price changes are not the only way that climate change may affect our diets. The report said that temperature changes could have an impact on where we source our food from and this in itself could affect nutritional quality. This is because food from different part of the world has different vitamin, antioxidant and amino acid compositions.
Political decisions may also be taken to produce more food with a lower impact on the environment and shift production to crops that are more resistant to different climatic conditions. The report said it is important that crop breeding should therefore maintain a focus on nutrient content and absorption, as well as improved yield.
As climate changes the authors added that monitoring of eating habits and the nutritional quality of food will be crucial to ensuring that food nutrition policy adapts to the changing times.
Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the FSA said: “A key issue for the Agency is to ensure, through monitoring and advice, that food safety is maintained as the effects of climate change emerge and as responses to these changes are developed across Government. This review will assist us in this task.”
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