World Food Day – 16 October

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How research is helping us reach a #ZeroHunger world

Special article collection for World Food Day

Today, about 793 million people around the world are undernourished. That’s 150 million people fewer than a decade ago, but we still have a long way to go if we are to achieve the goal of zero hunger by 2030.

The second UN Sustainable Development Goal, Zero Hunger, aims to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” This year, World Food Day is focusing on this goal, saying “a #ZeroHunger world by 2030 is possible” and asking people to help achieve the goal.

One way we’re working towards this is through research. In this special collection, we have collated recent articles in journals across Elsevier’s food science portfolio addressing hunger and food and nutrition security, as well as studies on how reducing and valuing food waste differently can help address hunger and malnutrition.

Researching food security to tackle hunger

There are many ways to look at the challenge of tackling global hunger, and ensuring food security is high on the agenda. But it’s not simple, says Dr. Paul Finglas, Head of the Food Database National Capability, and Research Leader in Food and Health, at the Quadram Institute Bioscience in the UK, and Editor-in-Chief of Trends in Food Science and Technology.

“Look at our food supply and at the population increase we’ll see over the next 50 years,” he said. “Our supply of natural resources is dropping, our available land is falling and our production of greenhouse gases is going up. Unless we do something quite drastic, we’ll struggle to feed the population.”

According to researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia, the increasing global population will put even more pressure on our food supply, which means we need to focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our food chains. Yet there are challenges to developing sustainable food chains, including their complexity and changing consumer demand.

In their paper in Trends in Food Science & Technology, the team explores how recent developments will impact the food sector’s ability to provide food security. “Food safety must be an enabler and not inhibitor of global food security,” they write.

“Global megatrends including climate change, a growing and aging population, urbanisation, and increased affluence will create food safety challenges and place new demands on producers, manufacturers, marketers, retailers and regulators. Advances in science and technology such as whole genome sequencing, active packaging, developments in tracing and tracking technologies, information computing technology and big data analysis has the potential to help mitigate the challenges and meet demands, but will also create new challenges.”

Zero Hunger is not just a goal for the developing world – malnutrition due to poor diet is a big problem in the western world, and nutrition security needs to be addressed globally. “All citizens should have access to safe and nutritious food, tailored for their individual status,” said Dr. Finglas.

In their paper in Food Chemistry, researchers from ICAR – Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute in India studied the nutritional composition of fish and developed a database, aiming to give people access to information to help them make healthy food choices. They explained:

“Fish is a healthy food, rich in quality animal proteins, polyunsaturated fatty acids especially the (ω)-3 eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid and micronutrients. In addition, fish are more available and affordable than other sources of animal proteins in tropical countries. Aquaculture, which is one of the fastest growing food production sectors, could play a big role in eradicating hunger, malnutrition and nutrient-deprivation globally.”

To address the lack of available nutritional information on fish, they developed NutriFishIN – a database not only for consumers, but also for food policy planners and those prioritizing fish for aquaculture. They say the species they have identified as rich in protein and oil and dense in micronutrients could be used as ‘nutrismart’ species in schools, for example. They conclude: “Ensuring availability of such nutrismart species through aquaculture could strongly contribute to global food basket for achieving food and nutritional security.”

Rethinking food waste to improve security

This database is an example of how researchers are bringing different people together to address hunger. As Dr. Finglas said, “the solution has to be multi and transdisciplinary, involving people in agriculture and the environment as well as nutritionists and consumers too. A lot of those disciplines talk but don’t always understand each other.”

Dr. Finglas’s own work is on the link between hunger, waste and food security. He is involved in a large European waste project called REFRESH, part of Horizon 21, which is led by Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands. The project has brought together a community of experts around food waste, developing an online food waste information system to identify compounds in food waste that could be used for other things.

Let’s go back to the fish, for example. Researchers in Argentina have looked at waste from the shrimp fishing industry to support horticulture. In their paper in Carbohydrate Polymers, they study how chitosan taken from shrimp waste can be used to entrap salicylic acid, a compound involved in regulating plant defences against pathogens. They tested the chitosan on lettuce seedlings, concluding: “salicylic acid loaded microparticles effect was very promising for its application as activators of salicylic acid dependent plant defence responses in lettuce as a model of horticultural plant species.”

Attacking food waste at the industry level is one approach, but World Food Day also encourages consumers to reconsider their own food waste, suggesting “If you have leftovers, freeze them for later, or use them as an ingredient in another meal. When you eat at a restaurant, ask for half a portion if you’re not feeling too hungry, or take your leftovers home.”

Dr. Finglas is working on another project with consumers, also led by Wageningen as part of the EU Richfields project. The aim is to find out what drives consumer behavior in terms of their food choices, eating behavior and patterns, and ultimately provide individual advice through an app, according to their preferences, their genotype, body make up and health status.

It might seem obvious to some people that we should waste less food in order to reduce global hunger, but researchers from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark have found that people’s knowledge differs depending on where they are. In their study in the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, the team looked at the level of knowledge and awareness of food waste consumers had in four countries: Denmark, Greece, Indonesia and Taiwan.

The results of their survey revealed that people in Taiwan had the most knowledge about consumer-generated food waste. They wrote: “Respondents from all four countries appeared to be concerned about food waste and related issues, but did not know the level of their own contribution in generating food waste.”

Read the article collection

In this collection, you can read some of the latest research on hunger, food and nutrition security and food waste from across Elsevier’s food science portfolio.

Nutritional composition of food fishes and their importance in providing food and nutritional security

Food Chemistry, In press, corrected proof, Available online 12 November 2017

Influence of soy fortification on microbial diversity during cassava fermentation and subsequent physicochemical characteristics of garri

Food Microbiology, Volume 66, September 2017, Pages 165-172

Targeting the pains of food insecurity and malnutrition among internally displaced persons with nutrient synergy and analgesics in organ meat

Food Research International, Volume 104, February 2018, Pages 48-58

Food safety for food security: Relationship between global megatrends and developments in food safety

Trends in Food Science & Technology, Volume 68, October 2017, Pages 160-175

Production of cellulose nanoparticles from blue agave waste treated with environmentally friendly processes

Carbohydrate Polymers, Volume 183, 1 March 2018, Pages 294-302

Salicylic acid loaded chitosan microparticles applied to lettuce seedlings: Recycling shrimp fishing industry waste

Carbohydrate Polymers, Volume 200, 15 November 2018, Pages 321-331

Enzymatic hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass: Converting food waste in valuable products

Current Opinion in Food Science, Volume 1, Issue 1, January 2015, Pages 44-49 (top cited)

Recovery of biomolecules of high benefit from food waste

Current Opinion in Food Science, Volume 22, August 2018, Pages 43-54

Shrimp shell wastes: Optimization of peptide hydrolysis and peptide inhibition of α-amylase

Food Bioscience, Volume 25, October 2018, Pages 52-60

Consumers with high education levels belonging to the millennial generation from Denmark, Greece, Indonesia and Taiwan differ in the level of knowledge on food waste

International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, Volume 11, April 2018, Pages 49-54