How can huge populations be fed healthily, equitably and affordably while maintaining the ecosystems on which life depends? The evidence of diet’s impact on public health and the environment has grown in recent decades, yet changing food supply, consumer habits and economic aspirations proves hard.
This book explores what is meant by sustainable diets and why this has to be the goal for the Anthropocene, the current era in which human activities are driving the mismatch of humans and the planet. Food production and consumption are key drivers of transitions already underway, yet policy makers hesitate to reshape public eating habits and tackle the unsustainability of the global food system.
The authors propose a multi-criteria approach to sustainable diets, giving equal weight to nutrition and public health, the environment, socio-cultural issues, food quality, economics and governance. This six-pronged approach to sustainable diets brings order and rationality to what either is seen as too complex to handle or is addressed simplistically and ineffectually. The book provides a major overview of this vibrant issue of interdisciplinary and public interest. It outlines the reasons for concern and how actors throughout the food system (governments, producers, civil society and consumers) must engage with (un)sustainable diets.
Table of Contents
1. Sustainable Diets: Welcome to the Arguments
2. Methodologies: Measuring what Matters while Not Drowning in Complexity
3. Health: Nutrition Science and the Messy Effects of Diet on Health
4. Environment: Why Food Drives Ecosystems Stress
5. Culture: the Social Conditions Shaping Eating Patterns
6. Food quality: Everyone Likes their Own Food
7. Real Food Economics: Runaway Costs and Concentration
8. Policy and Governance: Will Anyone Unlock the Consumption Lock-in?
9. Conclusions: Why Sustainable Diets Matter Now
Pamela Mason took her first degree in pharmacy and then studied nutrition, gaining an MSc and a PhD in nutrition from King’s College London, UK. She has an MSc in food policy from City University of London, UK. She is a registered public health nutritionist with the UK Association for Nutrition. She works with local food networks in Monmouthshire, South Wales.
Tim Lang is Professor of Food Policy at the Centre for Food Policy, City University of London, UK. He founded the Centre for Food Policy in 1994 and was Director until 2016. He is co-author of Food Wars (2015), Unmanageable Consumer (2015), Ecological Public Health (2012) and Food Policy (2009). He is policy co-lead on the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems (2016–17).
"Lang, the former Professor of Food Policy at City University, London, has devoted much of his distinguished career to thinking about and lobbying governments for sustainable food. Pamela Mason is a public health nutritionist from Wales with an MSc in food policy. Together, they have produced a work of brilliant synthesis which convincingly argues that the question of sustainable diets is the most urgent in food today. With meticulous scholarship and in clear prose, they lay out the multitude of ways in which modern diets are unsustainable and what interventions might be needed to improve the situation." - Bee Wilson, in The Times Literary Supplement (June 2017)
"Sustainable Diets by Mason and Lang is a highly detailed book full of brick-solid data on the most important food subject of today (and tomorrow). It is a really essential reference for all dietitians who want to participate in discussions and debates on food choices for the future." - Ursula Arens, in NHD (Network Health Digest) magazine (July 2017)
"There are only a handful of academincs researching food policy. This book contains the work of two such experts. The book is full of compelling statistics, life examples, and comparisons of evidence from around the globe which illustrate that our current food system is unsustainable." - Kiri Elliott, in Dietetics Today (July 2017).
"This path-breaking book situates the thorny issue of diets firmly within what has been called the Anthropocene—the era of human-induced changes to the planet ... The strengths of this book are many. It is original and timely, using the ample evidence provided as a springboard for developing their ideas about "ecological nutrition"... Overall, Mason and Lang emphasize that "what humanity eats has major impacts on public health, the economy, the environment and the future" (p. 10). This is undeniably true and the sooner we act on this realization, the better. Sustainable Diets is one blueprint to get us there." - Jennifer Sumner, in Canadian Food Studies (December 2017).
"Sustainable diets are complex. The recently released Sustainable Diets offers a comprehensive study on sustainable diets through extensive analyses of relevant and disparate bodies of literature. Known also as respected authorities and ardent advocates for sustainable food systems, authors Mason and Lang meticulously document the subtle and complex factors of quality, health, environment, social values, economy and governance. They urge readers and system actors to distinguish ‘values-for-money’ rather than ‘value for money’." - Kathleen Kevany, Dalhousic University, Truro, Canada