The food industry encompasses agriculture and fisheries, food processing and production, storage and distribution, wholesaling and retailing, preparation and marketing. These interdependent networks of organisations are underpinned by global and national logistics, finance, trade agreements and regulatory frameworks, and interact with governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental actors and the public (1). The commercial food system delivers affordable food to whole populations and has become vital to national economies, bringing significant employment and export trade. The food industry therefore serves an important social purpose, but at the same time is primarily driven by a profit motive (2).
The production of food leads to important external costs, including the health consequences of unhealthy foods and the environmental costs of intensive agriculture and production processes. However, the costs of these externalities are generally not passed on to consumers, meaning that overall food tends to be artificially cheap and the system therefore ultimately unsustainable (3, 4). As the global population grows, to better ensure sustainable production of affordable and healthful food for the long term future, a fundamental change in commercial food systems is needed. While much work has been done to explore solutions to this dilemma from a planetary perspective, little has explicitly explored how the food industry can achieve closer alignment with public health goals (5).
The aim of this PhD will be to identify opportunities for food system change that, while maintaining profitability are more compatible with the achievement of key public health goals, such as the prevention of non-communicable diseases. The research will involve developing a greater understanding of the commercial food system, its main drivers and potential levers for change, as well as identifying commercially viable ‘win-win’ opportunities for improving the healthfulness of commercial food offerings.
For this project, we are looking for a student with a background in political, systems or social sciences. This is just one example of the sort of project available in this programme and the final PhD project will be decided after detailed discussion with the supervisory team.
- Tansey G, Worsley T. The food system: a guide. London: Eartscan Publications Ltd, 1995.
- Lang T, Heasman M. Food Wars. London: Routledge, 2016.
- Lang T. Food industrialisation and food power: implications for food governance. Development Policy Review 2003;21(5-6):555-68.
- Blouin C, Chopra M, van der Hoeven R. Trade and social determinants of health. The Lancet 2009;373(9662):502-07.
- Lang T. Reshaping the Food System for Ecological Public Health. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition 2009;4(3-4):315-35.