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Expertise

Situation in Germany

Von Daniela Weible and Johanna Schott | 27.06.2022


MA Institute of Market Analysis

There is enough food available in Germany. Nevertheless, malnutrition and hunger exist in addition to overweight and obesity in the population due to poverty. What influence does the food environment have?

Although sufficient food is available and affordable, overweight, obesity, malnutrition and hunger exist simultaneously in Germany. According to the Robert Koch Institute, around two thirds of men and just over half of women were overweight in 2012.

Low-income households and children are often affected by food poverty and malnutrition. In general, too little fruit and vegetables and too much meat and meat products are consumed compared to the recommended amounts. At 60 kilograms per person per year, meat consumption in particular remains at too high a level.

At the same time, interest in vegan and vegetarian diets is increasing year by year. About four percent of the population eat a vegetarian diet and one percent a vegan diet.

The Scientific Advisory Board on Agricultural Policy, Food and Consumer Health Protection (WBAE) at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Germany recently pointed out that the influence of the food environment on dietary habits is underestimated in the public and political debate; too much responsibility still lies with the individual.

According to the WBAE, Germany has not yet implemented adequate policy measures to improve the food environment. Politicians are reluctant to propose measures in this regard because they fear a lack of acceptance. In addition, the media exert a great influence on dietary habits. In this regard, the WBAE states in its report: "The shaping of the food environment in Germany is currently primarily profit-oriented and serves the interests of the food industry."

The German federal system with distributed responsibilities in the field of nutrition among federal ministries, federal states and municipalities exacerbates the existing problems. Therefore, there is a need for the development of an integrated nutrition policy, in which the areas of health, social, environmental, animal welfare and agricultural policy are brought together.

From the consumer's point of view, there is a lack of reliable and uniform information about products, e.g. on packaging and in the digital environment, which makes it difficult for people to change their eating habits, even if they want to. Price incentives for sustainable food, taxes on predominantly unsustainable food and the provision of information about food could promote change towards healthier eating habits.

1. Health: Compared to its level of prosperity, Germany is only mediocre in terms of nutrition-related health indicators (e.g. high prevalence of people with overweight or obesity). Poverty correlates significantly with nutrition-related health impairments.

2. Social: In Germany there is extensive labour and social legislation, but at the same time there are indications of deficits in its implementation, especially in the area of seasonal and temporary workers as well as in the slaughter industry and the gastronomy. In the global agricultural economy, forced labour, serious forms of child labour and other violations of the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) are frequent.

3. Environment: Avoidable negative environmental effects occur in the food value chain - from the production of inputs to agricultural production, processing, trade and consumption - especially with regard to biodiversity, excess reactive nitrogen compounds and greenhouse gas emissions. The focus of nutrition-related environmental and climate protection is on shifting consumption to more environmentally and climate-friendly foods. In Germany and other industrialised countries, reducing the consumption of animal products and food waste are particularly important in this respect.

4. Animal welfare: In recent years, a few individual steps have been taken towards a change in agricultural animal husbandry towards greater animal welfare. A comprehensive strategy adopted by politically legitimised decision-makers, which also includes the financing of the necessary restructuring of livestock farming and thus enables greater progress, is still lacking.

In March 2021, the Thünen Institute of Market Analysis, together with partners from Germany, Malaysia, South Africa, Tanzania and Ghana, organised a virtual meeting with 75 participants on the topic of food environments. The aim of the workshop was to create a discussion platform on the topic of food environments for stakeholders and researchers in the partner countries.

The participants discussed the following three topics in the field of food environments:

  1. improving nutrition security through enhanced food environments,
  2. incorporating social and environmental sustainability into food environments,
  3. bridging gaps between policy and implementation.

On the German side, in addition to research institutions such as the Thünen Institute and the Justus Liebig University Gießen, NGOs such as Slow Food Germany, the Consumer Centre of North Rhine-Westphalia, WWF Germany and Tafel Germany were represented.

With the international partner organisations (University of Nottingham Malaysia, University of Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa, St. Augustine University of Tanzania, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Ghana), a project proposal is planned on the topic of "Shaping food environments in transitioning economies for sustainable and healthy diets".

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