I presented my study ‘Vegetable production for specific nutritional need’ at the Nuffield Farming Conference in Glasgow, November 2018. See the link below for the video

Hidden Hunger

There is more food available to us than for previous generations, but this has caused a triple burden of malnutrition where overeating and undernutrition co-exist: and where the excess calories consumed do not provide the optimum nutrients for health, known as hidden hunger.

In the UK, the lack of key nutrients in many diets such as fibre, vitamin A and folate can be directly linked to the low consumption of vegetables.

Food System

My key aim was to investigate the specific nutritional needs and dietary concerns of the countries I visited and how vegetables can meet these needs, and then to report on the dietary guidelines, policies and activities for promoting the consumption of vegetables in different countries. I wanted to understand what networks exist to bring different parts of the food system together to work on health enhancement projects. Finally, I wanted to study if or how the food system is targeting specific groups for health needs and personalised nutrition and I have used the example of managing potassium levels in potato products for patients with chronic kidney disease as a case study for multidisciplinary working.

Solution

My findings show that multi-disciplinary working throughout the food system is needed if we are to achieve a food system that can deliver nutritious, safe, affordable food that has been produced in a sustainable way.

Breeders and growers have the knowledge and expertise to improve the nutritive value of our crops but need to work with the food supply chain to get these foods into institutions and the food service sector as well as retail.

Recommendations

From the case study, retailers, nutrition scientists and growers should look at the benefits of quantifying levels of potassium, in raw produce or cooked, prepared foods. A sampling programme to validate the levels, followed by a regular verification programme, should be drawn up and the results rolled out into an online databank for suppliers, retailers and consumers, such as “Brandbank”.

The UK Government needs to look at nutrition as integral to policies across education, health and social care, agriculture and industry so that opportunities to improve the national diet can be reached using all available resource. There is also an opportunity to modify existing nutrition and health claim regulations to tailor them for use by the fresh produce sector now that we are leaving the EU.