Dietary behaviours have changed considerably in recent decades. People are eating more dietary fats, more processed foods and are eating out more often. This is coupled with the growing role of mass retailers in supply channels. As a key factor to our wellbeing, food can be beneficial or detrimental to our health. Food is at the crux of public health policy and is, more broadly speaking, a key concern for everyone. In the interest of public health, food policy deals with both a number of food issues such as food safety, food security and preventative nutrition, as well as France’s economically and culturally important food industry.
Ever-expanding research on the links between food and healthy lifestyle has addressed a wide range of topics, ranging from the relationship between nutrients and health (as in the case of vitamins, for example) to the complex nutritional interactions of foods or food combinations. This new knowledge meant that certain foods such as fruits, vegetables and fish could be championed as sources of beneficial nutrients and that recommended dietary allowances could be proposed. On the basis of such research, public policy has, for many years, spearheaded information campaigns about nutrition and fostered cooperation with the agrofood industry to produce healthier food. Unfortunately, rising obesity rates show that the expected effects of such efforts have yet to be achieved.
With this in mind, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, commissioned INRA to prepare a scientific expert report assessing research on the causal factors of dietary behaviour in order to guide its future course of action.
The report draws on nearly 1,600 scientific articles from around the world and was prepared by some twenty experts from fields as diverse as epidemiology, nutrition, sociology and economics.