France leads on food sustainability, Australia lags

Loire Valley

Loire Valley

The Economist releases their annual index focused on the future of food.

This week The Economist Intelligence Unit released its 2017 Food Sustainability Index (FSI), with France taking out the top spot and Australia coming in at number 14. The FSI - now in its second year - paints a picture of how many people have access to good food, the environmental cost of that access, and how that's expected to change in the future.

Thirty-four countries were assessed on 58 food sustainability criteria falling under three main categories: nutritional health, how sustainably agricultural land is managed and the steps being taken to reduce food waste.

Australia's place towards the middle of the list reflects our struggles as a nation with obesity and poor diet, inaction on climate change and a lack of crop diversity in farming. These were balanced by positive scores for overall quality of life, a government commitment to reduce food waste and measures to recycle water for farming. (In 2016 the federal government took steps to create a national strategy on food waste, which was launched in November this year.)

France took top honours largely because of its progress in reducing food waste through measures like fining supermarkets for throwing out food approaching its best-before date or making it simpler for large producers to donate directly to food banks. It outranked next-best performer Japan by 10 points in this area. Japan's key strengths were around diet and nutrition.

High-scoring countries tended to have governments willing to get involved in tackling the problems that contribute to a food system set up for the future. The index focuses on government commitment, however, rather than measuring specific outcomes of any large policy measures.

The United States landed at 21 in the list, while Ethiopia and Colombia both ranked ahead of Australia and many other developed countries.


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