France has one again won the top spot in a global league table for sustainable food, thanks largely to pioneering policies to reduce food waste.
It is the second time in a row France has topped the Food Sustainability Index, the latest update of which was published today by The Economist's Intelligence Unit (EIU) in partnership with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation.
The table ranks 34 countries - representing 85 per cent of global GDP - on the sustainability of their food system, considering performance on food waste, sustainable agriculture, and tackling nutritional challenges.
In recent years France has made a concerted effort to cut food waste, including a 2016 ban on French supermarkets throwing away or destroying unsold food.
In second and third place in this years' rankings were Germany and Japan respectively, while the UK ranked number 10, down from number five in 2016.
Richer countries generally perform better, but there are some exceptions. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) came bottom of the rankings due to poor performance on food waste, while Ethiopia ranking 12th overall, despite being the poorest country in the index.
The world's largest economy, the USA, came 21st in the index due to its low scores on sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges.
The highest-ranked countries typically demonstrate strong and effectively implemented government policy on food waste and loss, environmental conservation in agricultural practices, innovations in agriculture, and nutrition education, according to the EIU's managing editor, Martin Koehring.
"Sustainable food systems are vital in achieving the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals, notably ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030," said Koehring. "However, major global developments such as climate change, rapid urbanisation, tourism, migration flows and the shift towards Westernised diets put food systems under pressure."
The rankings came amid fresh warnings from scientists that Europeans must change their diets and step up innovation rates in the food industry to combat climate threats to food security and human health.
A group of 130 science academies across Europe want to see urgent action on food and nutrition in view of future climate-related challenges to agricultural systems and human health, with more attention paid to scientific evidence of climate threats.
The calls come in a report by the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) released today, the culmination of two-years' research by a team of scientists on the future of food, nutrition, agriculture and human health.
The paper argues climate-smart agriculture, such as the creation of new techniques for breeding resilient crops, will be needed to help the European food system cope with climate change.
It also calls for a radical change in European diets to mitigate the causes of climate change, recommending a cut in meat consumption and further research into plant-based subsititutes.
It also urges a greater focus on developing policies to reduce food waste across the supply chain. "Novel approaches to processing food and reducing waste will be central to achieving the Circular Economy and Bioeconomy policy objectives," the paper states.
The findings come just a week after the British Dietetic Association (BDA) announced a new policy stating that dietitians would now advise patients on how to cut the carbon impact of their diets, by eating less red and processed meat in favour of plant-based proteins such as beans and pulses.