October, 2023

The global impact of industrialised food: A looming crisis

“The industrialised food system is the leading cause of illness and early death around the world. And it is the leading cause of biodiversity loss. The UN Food Report of 2021 worked out that our global industrialised food system costs the globe roughly $20tn a year. About $11tn of that is in the impact to human health, like heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. And about $7tn is the impact on the environment”.

This quote is from a recent interview with the Australian scientist Felice Jacka, she continues in the same vein, ”The real issue is that many people don’t have the option (to cut these foods out of their diets) because it is very often the case that ultra-processed foods are the cheapest. This is a failure of government policy, nothing short of that”.

Well, who knew? Actually, I suspect quite a number of us notably including Henry Dimbleby who wrote an excellent Food Strategy for the government which they promptly ignored, subsiding no doubt under the weight of corporate lobbying and a coterie of extreme free marketeers.

It’s difficult sometimes not to give in to despair at the cruelty, greed and wilful stupidity behind our industrial food system but that’s not going to help and besides, there are some genuine signs of greater awareness and real concern. At our individual level, we can shop locally, never buy factory-farmed meat or eggs (the word ‘farming’ here is a total misnomer for this cruel and soulless production of junk food), eat a higher proportion of fresh vegetables – and relentlessly pursue our politicians until they turn around the whole subsidy system to support the production of healthy food that can be afforded by all.