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New report offers framework for assessing key aspects of the US food system

Posted: February 1, 2015

On January 13, the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council released a new report which offers a framework for assessing the health, environmental, social, and economic effects of the US food system.
"A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System" was released earlier this month by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council.

"A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System" was released earlier this month by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council.

[The report is available for download here.]

The report has four parts:

  • The first is an overview of the current system and how it evolved over time.
  • The second includes extensive chapters that describe the most salient effects of the food system in the health, environmental, economic, and social domains, and the interactions among them.
  • The third section describes the food system as a complex, adaptive system and argues that analytical methods and understanding complex systems are most appropriate for understanding configurations of the food system and the policies that affect them.
  • The fourth part is the analytical framework that the committee developed, along with the principles that would specifically apply to an assessment of a particular food system or policy.

The framework is followed by a set of six examples illustrating its application to complex issues including guidance on fish consumption and health, and the recommendations to increase fruit and vegetable intake. The report ends with a number of conclusions, including a plea that to discover the best solutions to multiple food systems problems it is important to not only identify the effects of the current system, but also to understand the drivers and how they interact with each other and with the observable system effects. The EFSNE team believes that our now four-year-old project embodies many of the key facets upon which the IOM committee has elaborated and we are pleased to know that going forward this type of effort is strongly supported and encouraged.