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News on an Emerging Vegan World – Winter 2023

Lidl announces Price Parity of Vegan Products with Animal Based Counterparts

Lidl Germany has announced that almost all of its own brand plant-based food products will be given the same pricing as their meat counterparts, and that these products will be placed in the direct vicinity of their meat products.

Lidl operates over 3,250 supermarkets worldwide. Its own brand Vemondo features a range of vegan products, including mince, milk, yogurt, and ice cream. The brand was established in 2020 in response to growing demand for plant-based food.

Christoph Graf, Lidl’s Head of Merchandise, said: “With the price adjustment of our Vemondo products, we want to invite customers more to try out the plant-based alternatives – without the price being the decisive criterion.”

Photo credit: Lidl Ireland

Plant-based Diet can reduce Heart Disease and Diabetes

Researchers in Germany analysed 37 published studies to assess the benefits of switching from red and processed meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products to plant-based foods such as beans, nuts, whole grains, oils, fruit and vegetables.

They found marked reductions in cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and a lower risk of dying from any cause during the periods covered by the studies, especially when red and processed meats were replaced with plant-based foods.  The study is the latest in succession of research findings which consistently show that plant-based diets are superior to meat and dairy.

Brazil cracks down on Illegal Ranchers

After pledging to oust illegal miners from the Amazon, Positive News Magazine reported that the Brazilian government has launched its biggest ever operation targeting cattle ranchers squatting on indigenous territories.

“Operation ErahaTapiro, which means ‘ox removal’ in the language of the Assurini Indigenous people, aims to remove thousands of cows from the rainforest’s Ituna-Itatá region.  It was swamped by so-called land grabbers under Brazil’s previous president, right-winger Jair Bolsonaro, and in 2019 became the Amazon’s most deforested indigenous area. 

Incomer Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has pledged to turn back the tide of deforestation and environmental crime. This week, an armed taskforce began driving cattle out of Ituna-Itatá. Around 5,000 will be moved in the operation, which is expected to take several weeks.”

Although this is a positive move beef production still causes 80% of deforestation in the Amazonian Rainforest.  There are signs of the rate of deforestation falling since Lula came to office.

Ibama agents approach a building in an attempt to drive out illegal mining. Source: The Guardian

World’s first Alt-Seafood Association launches

Future Ocean Foods debuts as the world’s first alternative seafood association, dedicated to propelling the alt seafood industry into a new era. Their mission is “to replace 50% of animal products globally with plant-based and cultivated foods by 2040.”  With an impressive list of inaugural memberships, the alliance already has 36 companies on board, spanning 14 countries.  40% of its members are women founders, and this percentage is set to increase.

The association plans to bring together global initiatives united in a shared purpose to create sustainable, healthy seafood alternatives that support ocean conservation and address current challenges in food security. The association’s focus is to foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing with members spanning the sectors of plant-based seafood, fermentation, and cultivated food tech.  They will also support traditional seafood companies and communities to diversify offerings and increase their economic prosperity.

Speaking to Vegconomist, Future Ocean Foods’ founder and Executive Director, Marissa Bronfman, explained, “Future Ocean Foods members include many of the world’s most brilliant and passionate people working to transform our food system. Together we have the power to build a future in which ‘seafood’ is delicious, nutritious, ethical, equitable, sustainable, accessible, and affordable. A future in which seafood made from plants and cells isn’t ‘alternative’, but mainstream. Every single person has the ability to save our oceans and the sentient beings inside them – it starts with what we put on our plate.” 

Ultra-processed Plant-based Alternatives are still healthier than Meat

A major international study has indicated that plant-based meats are not associated with an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

The study investigated the link between multimorbidity – the co-occurrence of two or more long-term conditions, such as cancer and heart disease, and various ultra processed foods. The researchers found that ultra-processed plant-based alternatives “were not associated with risk of multimorbidity.”

266,666 participants from seven European countries, including Denmark, Sweden, and the UK took part in the study.  Researchers then contacted them every three to four years to obtain information on any major diseases. 

FAO Annual Report finds Hidden Costs of the Global Agrifood System of at least $10 trillion

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has published its annual State of Food and Agriculture report. According to the report, agrifood systems have significant hidden costs, adding up to at least $10 trillion per year. This is equivalent to almost 10% of global GDP.

Over 70% of this figure is linked to health costs caused by poor diets, specifically those high in fat, sugar, and processed foods.  A fifth of the food system’s hidden costs are believed to be environmental, including greenhouse gas/nitrogen emissions, water use, and land use change. All countries are affected, and the true cost is likely to be even higher than estimated due to data limitations.

Numerous studies have indicated that meat production is a major contributor to these costs, with beef requiring up to 99% more land and water than plant-based alternatives. Recent research also found that replacing half of animal foods with plant-based alternatives could virtually halt deforestation.

The FAO is now calling on governments and businesses to use regular and detailed true cost accounting (TCA) to measure hidden costs; they should then work to mitigate the harms caused by the agrifood system. The report underscores the “undeniable urgency” of food system transformation.

Denmark introduces the World’s First National Action Plan to support Plant-Based Foods

The Danish government published in October the first ever national plant-based action plan with its strategy on how the Nordic country can transition towards a richer plant-based food diet and boost plant-protein production in the next years.

Between 2017 and 2022, Denmark witnessed a twofold increase in protein-rich plant crop production, generating an economic value of $1,2 billion, but compared to animal-based production the country has still a long way to go.

In January 2021 Denmark’s new dietary guidelines called for a reduction in meat and dairy consumption, and higher intake of plant-based proteins.  Later in 2021, Denmark introduced an unprecedented climate agreement arguing that vegan food must be a “central element in the green transition”. The plan saw the government earmark €168M to advance the sector, with €90M going to the creation of a new Fund for Plant-Based Foods, and the rest as bonuses to farmers who grew plant-based protein crops for human consumption.  It also established a fund for Plant-Based Foods.  However, the first round received 101 applications from startups, universities and others, requesting more than thrice the allocated €7.78M budget.

The country’s new national action plan is part of this 2021 agreement, establishing how the government wants to boost its plant-based industry.  The plan contains measures focused on every part of the supply chain from producer to consumer and also sets out how the country can become a leader in plant-based food exports.

Rune-ChristofferDragsdahl, secretary general of the Vegetarian Society of Denmark has commented that the national action plan lacks concrete objectives across the board: “There are a lot of great visions in the action plan, but it is unclear which goals will be achieved and how they will be achieved, ….it also requires further investments throughout the value chain.  And here, the money does not match the ambitions.”

Plant based Diet may help reduce Allergies

A new study published in the journal Nutrients  has shed new light on the intricate relationship between allergic diseases and diet.  The findings indicate that a plant-based diet may hold the key to treating severe allergic diseases, especially those associated with obesity. 

The paper states that “nutritionally balanced plant-based diets protect from allergy and reduce the severity of allergic diseases [because] plant-based diets contain high amounts of anti-allergic nutrients”.  It also states that sufficient dietary fibre and adequate macronutrient intake are essential for maintaining immune tolerance to allergens.

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