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Nations With Most Food May Lack Best Diets, Study Finds

Nations With Most Food May Lack Best Diets, Global Study Finds
Field corn plants with wilted and dying leaves stand in a dry field in Idaville, Indiana, on July 6, 2012. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

An abundant food supply doesn’t guarantee that a nation will have the healthiest or safest diet, according to a study of global food security.

The U.S., Denmark, Norway and France are the world’s most “food-secure” countries in terms of availability, cost and nutrition value while Israel, 22nd overall, had the best quality and safety, according to the study released today by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Germany, while 10th in food security, ranked 21st in quality, measured by nutrient content and balance. The Democratic Republic of Congo ranked last.

The findings are part of a global food-security index developed to measure hunger worldwide and identify areas for improvement. World food prices may rise this month after a drought in the U.S. Midwest wilted crops, the United Nations forecast. Rapid price gains contributed to more than 60 food riots around the globe from 2007 to 2009, while nutrition costs that peaked in April 2011 sparked revolutions in North Africa.

“To truly address the root cause of hunger, we must have a common path forward to tackle such pressing issues as food affordability, availability, nutritional quality and safety,” said Ellen Kullman, chief executive officer of DuPont Co., which sponsored the study. “What gets measured, gets done,” she said today in Washington where the report was released.

Bottom Rankings

The research examines food security in 105 nations on the basis of affordability, availability, nutrition content and food safety. After Congo, the nations with the worst nutrition situation were Chad, followed by Burundi and Haiti. Some countries in the bottom third, including Ethiopia and Niger, may improve with rapid economic growth, according to the report.

Because food security is a politically sensitive issue, “what’s important is that these indices be independent, credible and transparent,” Leo Abruzzese, the director of the Americas and global forecasting with the Economist Intelligence Unit, based in London, said at the Washington event. “Every country, even the countries that finished first, will have strengths and weaknesses.”

Residents of wealthy nations have 55 percent more food available than people in poorer countries, 3,400 calories a person per day compared with 2,200, the study found. The United Nations recommends daily intake of 2,300 calories. In the three main areas of food security, the U.S. was first in affordability, fourth in availability and third in quality and safety.

Global food supplies were a topic of discussion at the Group of Eight summit held in the U.S. in May. Before the meeting, President Barack Obama, in his first speech on global food security, announced $3 billion in pledges from companies including Cargill Inc. and Syngenta AG for farm development in Africa, the world’s most food-insecure region, over the next decade.

“Fifty years ago, Africa was an exporter of food,” Obama said in May. “There is no reason why Africa should not be feeding itself and exporting food again.”

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