Research by the University of Southampton shows that future choices around trade, food and climate change will be crucial in securing the UK’s food supply of micronutrients.

Scientists conclude that factors such as Brexit, the shift to plant-based diets and any further disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic will have major influences on our food supply and in turn the range and the level of micronutrients available to people through their diet.

The UK is not self-sufficient in several essential vitamins (A and C) and minerals (calcium, zinc and iron). We rely on imports, rather than local produce, to provide enough of these micronutrients to ensure people can receive their recommended daily intake.

“The pandemic has shown the importance of nutrition for staying healthy and fighting infection. It is important for public health that people can maintain a healthy diet through readily available food sources,” said lead researcher Professor Guy Poppy, who is also deputy director. Chairman of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). “If the UK is to become more nutrient self-sufficient, it will take a series of actions to change production and the amount grown domestically, coupled with significant changes in consumer food preferences.”

The researchers looked at data from a number of sources showing how micronutrient security varied between 1961 and 2017. They also analyzed 2017 foreign trade data from HM Revenue and Customs to assess the food supply abroad before leaving the EU and executed future scenarios around the internal market. production, imports and supply of food sources of animal and plant origin.

Results, published in the journal natural food, show that since the 1960s the UK has become much more dependent on imports for micronutrients. For example, before joining the EU, most of our vitamin C was produced locally, but now we import the majority in the form of fruit and vegetables. About half of all these imports come from European countries, with Spain and the Netherlands being the main contributors. The research also highlighted that over the past sixty years trade agreements have affected the supply of key micronutrients, highlighting the importance of trade on food supply as the UK negotiates post-Brexit deals.

The paper’s co-author, Dr Jenny Baverstock, added: “There is a growing call for a plant-based diet to help tackle climate change – but it will be a model-based challenge. current situation, and especially if we continue to rely on imports of fruit and vegetables which cannot be grown in the UK.

“This increase in vegetarianism and veganism will require careful policy and decision-making, as the bioavailability of micronutrients from meat and dairy products is not readily reproducible by plants. Consideration will also be needed on how to” eating for human health “. like ‘eating for the health of the planet’.”

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Material provided by University of Southampton. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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