Entries by UNSCN Secretariat

The First FAO/WHO/AU International Food Safety Conference

12-13 February 2019
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

With an estimated 600 million cases of foodborne illnesses annually, unsafe food is a threat to human health and economies globally. Foodborne diseases in low- and middle-income countries costs at least US$100 billion a year, with this cost exceeding US$500 million for 28 countries, according to a recent World Bank study. Ongoing changes in climate, global food production and supply systems affect consumers, industry and the planet itself: food safety systems need to keep pace with these changes. The burden of unsafe food disproportionally affects vulnerable and marginalized people and poses sustainability and development challenges. Despite the growing recognition of the fundamental role food safety plays in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the main objectives of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, efforts to strengthen food safety systems remain fragmented and the gains, particularly in many developing countries, have been well below expectations.

In this pivotal moment, this conference, co-organised by FAO, WHO, WTO and AU, will bring together Ministers and representatives of national governments, senior policy makers as well as representatives of non-state actor groups from all regions of the world to engage in an urgent reflection on food safety challenges to:

  • Identify key actions and strategies to address current and future challenges to food safety globally.
  • Strengthen commitment at the highest political level to scale up food safety in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

At the Addis Ababa Conference, priorities will be discussed so that food safety strategies and approaches can be aligned across sectors and borders, reinforcing efforts to reach the SDGs and supporting the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition. Strategic actions will be defined through Ministerial panels involving health, trade and agriculture officials and experts thematic sessions covering the topics of:

  • the burden of foodborne diseases and the benefits of investing in safe food;
  • safe and sustainable food systems in an era of accelerated climate change;
  • science, innovation and digital transformation at the service of food safety;
  • empowering consumers to make healthy choices and support sustainable food systems.

The conference will result in a high-level political statement advocating for increased and better coordinated collaboration and support to improve food safety globally.

More info available here

Obituary in Memory of Dr. Elisabet Helsing

Elisabet Helsing, born in Oslo in 1940 started out as a school teacher. While nursing her two children she developed a strong interest and engagement in protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding. Backed by a young medical officer in the Norwegian National Directorate of Health, Gro Harlem Brundtland - later Norway’s Prime Minister and Director-General of WHO - she developed official pamphlets with practical advice to mothers on how to succeed in breastfeeding. In 1968, she initiated the mother-to-mother support group “Ammehjelpen” which spread rapidly throughout the country and was credited for the dramatic rise in breastfeeding in Norway from 1970 onwards. In 1969, Elisabet took up nutrition studies at the University of Oslo to strengthen her scientific credentials to further campaign for breastfeeding. Her interests widened to nutrition policy more broadly, also reflected in her doctorate at the University of Athens in 1989.

Her international career started in Norway from 1973 through the FAO-led Freedom from Hunger Campaign, organizing international conferences and awareness-raising on international nutrition issues.  At the 1974 World Food Conference she amazingly got the Norwegian Minister of Agriculture to propose breastmilk as acommodityto be accounted for in national food balance sheets highlighting its economic value. While this may have been too radical for the world, Norway has since 1993 estimated the annual production of human milk. Later, in Niger, she worked on nutrition emergency relief with the International League of Red Cross Societies and the Ministry of Health. In Bangladesh with the World Food Programme she supervised the implementation of a feeding programme for over half a million women and children, while at the same time she initiated (on a voluntary basis) a self-help project for women (Nijera Kori-“we do it ourselves”)which developed into a well-known, still existing national activist NGO.

Between 1978-81 she coordinated a Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) project investigating the potential use of fish protein concentrate in emergency relief worldwide (and concluded in the negative). In 1980-81 she also coordinated an international multi-centre study on breastfeeding among working mothers in Brazil, Sri Lanka and Tanzania, hosted by the Institute for Nutrition Research at the University of Oslo.

From 1981 to 1984, Elisabet worked as a Senior Executive Officer in the Norwegian National Directorate of Health on international nutrition-related questions, infant feeding and WHO, including implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes - typically against strong industry interests. 

In 1984, Elisabet became the first regional adviser for nutrition at WHO’s Regional Office for Europe in Copenhagen. During twelve years in this function, she raised the profile of nutrition policy development and implementation; extra demands being set to her creativity with the opening of the Soviet states in 1990. She spearheaded the work to roll-out the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) – reaching to the Barents Region,  strengthened nutrition surveillance and dietary surveys, and early spoke up about issues that would not be raised if WHO did not do it, such as the rise in obesity. Elisabet was in this period among the initiators of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) established in 1991 and served in several functions in its leadership. She also in WHO found her husband Graham Dukes – a medico-legal expert on side-effects of drugs with whom she shared the rest of her life and numerous common interests.

Back in Norway in 1996 she continued her engagement in infant nutrition related matters and provided advice to Norwegian government agencies as a senior executive officer at the Section for International Affairs and Public Health of the Norwegian Board of Health. She lectured and supervised students at the University of Oslo and took up an interest in breastfeeding as a human right of the mother/child dyad.  From 1999 to 2003, Elisabet served as president of the Federation of European Nutrition Societies (FENS).

Elisabet’s contributions to public health nutrition, and breastfeeding in particular, are numerous and have left strong footprints. In 2003 she was awarded the Norwegian King's Medal of Merit in Gold for extraordinary services to the people through her work to promote breastfeeding. Her work is all the more impressive as it evolved in the shadow of “Mr. P” as she called the early entry in her life of Parkinson’s disease; however, she never let it restrict her professional life.

Elisabet Helsing has authored a number of books, chapters and scientific papers, training materials for health workers, as well as practical guides for mothers. She always willingly shared of her profound knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to the benefit of many colleagues, nutrition students and friends who have been inspired and moved by her. She will be truly missed by many in the international nutrition community.

Authors: Kaia Engesveen, Wenche Barth Eide, Anne Bærug, Siri Damman, Isatou Jallow, Arne Oshaug, Liv Elin Torheim

Inaugural meeting of the establishment of the Global Action Network on Nutrition Labelling: taking action for better informed consumers’ choices in the Decade of Action on Nutrition

6 – 7 February 2019
Ministry of Health, 14 Avenue de Duquesne, 75007, Paris (France)

France and Australia with the support of the Nutrition Decade Secretariat will convene countries to the inaugural meeting of the Global Action Network on Nutrition Labeling with the aim to engaging countries into accelerating efforts around nutrition labelling, strengthening collaboration among countries, foster policy dialogue and facilitate and enhance local and global actions. The network intends to expand to a growing number of countries. By implementing nutrition labelling, it will strengthen national nutrition policies and help reduce the incidence of malnutrition worldwide.

Concept note



2nd Global Conference on the One Planet: Sustainable Food Systems Programme

5-7 February
San Jose, Costa Rica

The Sustainable Food Systems Programme of the UN One Planet network (10YFP) is a multi-stakeholder partnership with the aim to accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production patterns in all areas related to food. 

Addressing the interrelated challenges in our food systems requires a holistic approach that involves all relevant actors and elements across the system. The conference theme – Good Food for People and the Planet, Working together towards 2030 - highlights the interactions between natural resources, livelihoods, and nutrition, and underscores the need for applying a systems lens. In addition, it stresses the importance of sustainable food systems for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

More info available here.

Participation is upon invitation only.

Call for experts for the FAO/WHO Joint Expert Meetings on Nutrition (JEMNU) on nitrogen to protein conversion factors for soy- and milk-based ingredients used in infant formulas and follow-up formulas

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meetings on Nutrition (JEMNU) was established in 2012 to provide scientific advice to the committees of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme (i.e. Codex Alimentarius) or Member Countries. JEMNU aims to provide relevant scientific advice in an independent and cost-effective manner; therefore, the Meetings will be convened when there is a specific request from a Codex Committee or Member Countries.

Currently being discussed at the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU) is the most appropriate nitrogen to protein conversion factor (or factors) to use in estimating protein content of soy-based ingredients and milk-based ingredients used in infant formulas and follow-up formulas. To provide guidance on this topic, at the 39th Session of CCNFSDU in 2017, the Committee requested that JEMNU be convened to review the evidence and develop evidence-informed guidance regarding nitrogen to protein conversion factors. (To facilitate the work of JEMNU, a systematic review is currently being conducted to compile and analyse the available data on nitrogen to protein conversion factors for foods containing soy-based and/or milk-based ingredients.)

FAO and WHO have therefore initiated the convening of JEMNU and are in the process of identifying experts with relevant knowledge and experiences to participate in the expert meeting to be held during 15 – 19 July 2019 (exact dates to be confirmed). The selected experts will review the evidence to establish appropriate nitrogen to protein conversion factors for soy-based and milk-based ingredients used in infant formulas and follow-up formulas.

For more information please visit: https://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/callforexperts-JEMNU-Feb2019/en/ or http://www.fao.org/nutrition/requirements/proteins/en/.

Applications must be received by 1 March 2019.

Promoting youth and women engagement and employment in food systems across the rural-urban continuum

04 Feb 2019, 09:30 – 17:00 (CET)
FAO HQ, Green Room
Rome, Italy

Over the next 15 years, it is estimated that about 1.6 billion people will reach working age in low and middle-income countries. How can food systems and enhanced rural-urban linkages provide more and better jobs for women and youth? What are the key driving factors and enabling conditions for food systems and enhanced rural-urban linkages to create employment and decent work? What is the role of small cities and rural towns in promoting women and youth employment in the food systems? And what is their role in linking producers to diverse and more equitable markets? 

Inclusion of youth and women in food system labour market will be paramount to achieving food security and nutrition for all.

Following the first intersessional event on The Food Security and Nutritional Impacts of Urbanization and Rural Transformation on Lower Income Groups, through an interactive format, this event will focus on policy approaches that support employment opportunities, improved livelihoods and adequate working conditions for youth and women, across food systems and across the rural-urban continuum. 

Besides furthering CFS stakeholders’ understanding of the interplay between food security, nutrition and rural-urban linkages, the intersessional events organized under the workstream Urbanization and Rural transformation and implications for Food Security and Nutrition are also expected to facilitate a functional and effective link with the CFS Multi-Year Programme of Work planning process.


Interpretation services will be provided in all UN official languages.

The webcast can be followed on http://www.fao.org/webcast

The event will build on the findings of the following CFS documents: 

Investing in Breastfeeding in 2019

On 30 and 31 January 2019 join a Global Breastfeeding Collective Webinar in Support of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement to be held in English, French and Spanish.

Breastfeeding benefits everyone. Breastfeeding acts as a baby’s first vaccine, providing antibodies that give babies everywhere a critical boost. It promotes cognitive development in children, which leads to higher educational achievement and greater earnings in adulthood. Breastfeeding reduces the burden of childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia—two of the leading causes of deaths in children under age 5 globally — lowering health care costs and creating healthier families. Breastfeeding is also important for mothers, protecting and improving their health.

Many SUN member countries have made considerable progress to protect, promote and support breastfeeding, but more needs to be done. Organised by the SUN Movement Secretariat and the Global Breastfeeding Collective, this webinar will:

  1. Introduce tools to support advocacy efforts in SUN member countries.
  2. Inform SUN Government Focal Points and members of multi-stakeholder platforms about the work of the Global Breastfeeding Collective, its Call to Action and tools to support advocacy. 
  3. Share country experiences of successful breastfeeding advocacy efforts to affect policy changes, increase investment in breastfeeding programmes and improve quality of care and support to mothers, and describe challenges encountered.
  4. Encourage action in countries to improve breastfeeding policies and programmes as per the Global Breastfeeding Collective Call to Action based on the lessons learned.

To RSVP to the Webinars please see the links below:

January 30 (Wednesday)
• Webinar 1 (English): Asia 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. (CET) >  http://bit.ly/breastfeeding2019rsvp1
• Webinar 2 (English): Africa 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. (CET) >  http://bit.ly/breastfeeding2019rsvp2
January 31 (Thursday)
• Webinar 3 (Français): Africa 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (CET) >  http://bit.ly/breastfeeding2019rsvp4
• Webinar 4 (Español): Latin America 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. (CET) >  http://bit.ly/breastfeeding2019rsvp3

Transforming the food system to fight non-communicable diseases

Malnutrition and unhealthy diets are important risk factors for non-communicable diseases. Francesco Branca and colleagues call for changes in both what and how food is produced, marketed, and consumed in their latest articleTransforming the food system to fight non-communicable diseases.

Key messages

  • Poor quality diets, malnutrition in all its forms, and NCDs are closely linked. Unhealthy diets are now the biggest risk factor for NCDs
  • Poor quality diets, malnutrition, and NCDs are the logical consequences of, among other factors, major changes to how food is produced, sold, marketed, and consumed around the world in the past half century
  • Transformation of current food systems to improve availability, affordability, and uptake of nutritious, safe, affordable, and sustainable diets is key to tackling malnutrition in all its forms and diet related NCDs
  • Policy options to tackle the different forms of malnutrition and diet related NCDs can also help create food systems that are sustainable, benefitting planetary health
  • The United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition, along with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and Goals, are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to simultaneously and cost effectively improve diets, eliminate malnutrition, reduce death and disability from NCDs, and promote sustainable development

Download the full article here.

The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change: The Lancet Commission report

Malnutrition in all its forms, including obesity, undernutrition, and other dietary risks, is the leading cause of poor health globally. In the near future, the health effects of climate change will considerably compound these health challenges. Climate change can be considered a pandemic because of its sweeping effects on the health of humans and the natural systems we depend on (ie, planetary health). These three pandemics—obesity, undernutrition, and climate change—represent The Global Syndemic that affects most people in every country and region worldwide. They constitute a syndemic, or synergy of epidemics, because they co-occur in time and place, interact with each other to produce complex sequelae, and share common underlying societal drivers.

This Commission recommends comprehensive actions to address obesity within the context of The Global Syndemic, which represents the paramount health challenge for humans, the environment, and our planet in the 21st century.

To access The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change Hub page at The Lancet, click here. For the full report, click here.