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Novel organic food processing regulations through interaction of SDGs and recommended healthy and sustainable dietary approaches for healthy and sustainable food systems

Shirani Faradonbeh, Mohaddaseh (Sharon) (2020) Novel organic food processing regulations through interaction of SDGs and recommended healthy and sustainable dietary approaches for healthy and sustainable food systems. Masters thesis, University of Kassel, Department of Food and Agricultural Marketing, D-Witzenhausen . . [Submitted]

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The United Nations (UN) Standing Committee on Nutrition has revealed that malnutrition is the largest factor that drives the worldwide disease burden. (UNSCN) On the other hand, it is stated that currently approximately more than 820 million people are suffering from hunger. (FAO c) Another critical area in today’s world, is associated with unsustainable living and production models. (Sellahewa and Martindale 2010)
A large number of health-conscious people believe that consuming organic food could help overcome these challenges. In particular, health is a critical buying motive for them; a fact that has been acknowledged by diverse quantitative consumer researches. (Davies et al. 1995; Schifferstein and Oude Ophuis 1998; Michelsen et al. 1999; Harper and Makatouni 2002; Zanoli and Naspetti 2002) At the same time, studies have revealed that there is a link between one’s diet patterns and their health. (WHO 1998) On the other hand, studies show that there is a positive correlation between healthy nutrition style and the organic products. (Barański et al. 2017) The perceived health benefits of organic food include limited exposure to contaminants (Hughner et al. 2007; Magnusson et al. 2003) and having higher nutritional value. (Hughner et al. 2007) However, these deviations are not significant (Brantsæter et al. 2017) and whether they are relevant to human health is not clear. Besides, just a limited number of researches have studied the potential effects of organic food compared to conventionally produced food on human health. (Huber et al. 2011; Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety 2014; Ross et al. 2013) Welfare of animals (Harper and Makatouni 2002; Schifferstein and Oude Ophuis 1998) and environmental protection concerns (Hughner et al. 2007; Williams and Hammitt 2000) political perspectives and social elements (Bravo et al. 2013) are other important drivers behind purchasing organic food. Although studies suggest that practicing organic farming over convectional farming, offers a wide variety of benefits such as biodiversity conservation, superior soil quality, decreased evaporation and water harvesting, strengthened adaptation conservation and decreased greenhouse gas emissions, as well as energy efficiency, (Seufert et al. 2012) as the performance of organic food manufacturing plants is largely dependent on the specific operator or supply chain, no general statements can be made regarding sustainability performance of the subsequent supply chain phases (transport, processing and retailing) as well as different product types. (Schader et al) On the other hand, the economic performance of organic agriculture can be assessed in varied ways and no uniform evaluation process, has been developed so far. (Schader et al)
Different levels of standards for organic food production and farming are developed (vogl et al. 2005) including, international voluntary standards, national mandatory standards and local or private voluntary standards to facilitate regulation of different food systems from field-to point of sale. International principles, regulations and standards including IFOAM norms, EU-Organic regulation and Demeter International regulations, describe the minimum requirements to be fulfilled by food processors. (Kilcher et al. 2006)
Processing is part of the field to fork process and responsible to transform the raw material from the field to consumable, edible food. (Kahl et al. 2013) However, organic production has set the main focus for principles and regulations on the primary production. At the same time, processing seems to have some open gaps between principles and practices. Some of these open gaps are addressed by a European project called ProOrg. (Meier et al. 2019a)
At the same time, there are some dietary approaches and models, which seem to place more emphasis on health and sustainability topics. Such approaches include but are not limited to the new Nordic, the Mediterranean, (FAO 2019), the planetary healthy, (EAT- Lancet) (Willett et al. 2019) and wholesome nutrition diets which are all embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). (Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition 2017)
This study aims to evaluate the international organic food processing regulations, with the help of sustainable development goals, planetary diets as well as some other instruments including NOVA classification method with respect to two aspects of health and sustainability. Furthermore, it intends to propose some recommendations to enable food producers, manufacture nutritious foods based on sustainable food systems.
The main research question of this study is, “How may integration of SDGs and recommended healthy and sustainable dietary approaches be able to guide organic food processing regulations for healthy and sustainable food systems?”
The study mainly relied on the narrative qualitative methodology. However, to analyze the organic food processing standards, the inductive and deductive research methodology were used.
The findings of the study revealed that organic food processing sector goals are concerned with two aspects of producing healthy and nutritious foods based on the sustainable value chain. On the other hand, it was uncovered that fulfilling this aim is solely feasible through a restricted regulatory framework for the production and processing of the food.
At the same time, it was found, nutritional patterns and diets cannot fully address on the level of processing/product composition and these topics are only one driver of the nutrition style.
Furthermore, it was revealed that organic food processing regulations and codes of practice, fail to reflect on all aspects and requirements of healthy and sustainable diets. Thus, it was proven that organic regulations and codes of practice should further be improved and more regulations are required to be established to enable regulations/codes of practice, fully reflect on all the requirements that are addressed by global sustainable diets. In order to fulfill this objective, some recommendations were made. Following, a list of most prominent proposed recommendations can be found.
It was advised that international organic food processing regulations and codes of practice establish some standards or codes of practice to give recommendations about the best sources of fats, proteins, grains and sugars based on the studied diets. These sources would then be used for the production of different types of processed foods, enabling them to go hand in hand with the requirements covered in the healthy and sustainable dietary approaches.
It was also recommended to insert a requirement which facilitates plant-based meat alternative sources in the standards to encourage the production of plant based processed foods to support sustainability.
The study also uncovered that some inconsistencies among international organic food processing regulations and codes of practice, in terms of the different aspects, criteria and indicators addressed by them exist. Thus, it was uncovered that there is a need for some sort of consistency in a way that these covered fields align well with each other. This would prevent confusion among the organic food processors.
With regards to the nutritional quality aspect covered by international organic food processing regulations, it was recommended to make some amendments in regulations by prioritizing the permitted additives, flavors and aids based on their impact on the environment, biodiversity and human health. Also, it was recommended to avoid using some unhealthier additives and flavors including the additives and flavors that are used in the production of ultra-processed foods and rely on other healthier alternatives.
It was also advised to set some thresholds regarding the permitted level of cleaning and disinfecting agents to be used in food production and some guidelines also were recommended to be developed to enable food producers to maintain a hygienic workplace and avoid contaminating foods through exposing them to these materials.
Furthermore, the study showed, a large number of organic food processing regulations have made general statements about the specification of organic food processing techniques that can be defined subjectively. For instance, the terms careful, misleading and natural that have been associated with organic food processing techniques or consumer perception of organic foods is vague and unclear. Therefore, it was recommended that some amendments be made to clarify any confusion about the type of processing techniques to be used in organic food production.
At the same time, one strategy to fight against hunger was deemed to be application of information and communication technologies. As they potentially can help to combat price variability, for instance, through lowering the cost of search and subsequently, the production cost can be reduced. (Hoddinott et al. 2012) Thus, it was recommended that organic food processing regulations reflect on the advanced technologies in the aforementioned fields.
Another considered strategy to fight against hunger is, relying on the profitable crops for manufacturing different foods (Hoddinott et al. 2012) and it was recommended that organic food processing regulations reflect on the list of profitable and nutritious crops. The study also revealed that nutritional quality of foods is vulnerable to heat. In order to combat this problem, it was recommended that some thresholds determining the acceptable degree of heat to be applied on the foods in varied types of processing techniques that function based on heat treatment for varied processing purposes be established by organic regulations. Additionally, it was advised that organic food processing regulations propose a list of alternative technologies that can deliver similar effects, without compromising the quality of the end product.
On the other hand, it was recommended that organic food processing regulations and codes of practice, generate requirements facilitating environmentally friendly technologies that can help to minimize, the negative effects of food processing technologies on the environment, such as, technologies that function based on renewable energies, consume the least amount of natural resources, emit the least amount of greenhouse gasses and produce the least amount of waste. Reducing emissions by upscaling low carbon energy or usage of nuclear energy (Roser and Ritchie 2020) is another recommendation that was made to support environmental sustainability and it was recommended to be stated in the organic food processing regulations.
At the same time, it was uncovered that the sustainable and healthy planetary diet has established some thresholds to support sustainability. For instance, the established boundaries regarding greenhouse gas emissions as well as consumptive water use per year to regulate climate change and freshwater use respectively. It was recommended to reflect on these thresholds in organic food processing regulations and codes of practice.

EPrint Type:Thesis
Thesis Type:Masters
Keywords:Organic Food processing regulations, sustainable food production, healthy foods, mandatory requirements, SDGs, healthy and sustainable diets
Agrovoc keywords:
processing of foods -> food processing
SDGs -> Sustainable Development Goals
organic foods
sustainable products
healthy diets
food production
Subjects:"Organics" in general
Food systems > Processing, packaging and transportation
Values, standards and certification
Environmental aspects
Research affiliation: Germany > University of Kassel > Department of Agricultural- and Food Marketing
Deposited By: Shirani, Sharon
ID Code:39603
Deposited On:20 Apr 2021 07:28
Last Modified:20 Apr 2021 07:28
Document Language:English

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