Sweden leads its neighbours in promoting organic food within the public sector

February 23, 2021

Sweden leads its neighbours in the amount of organic food served in hospitals, kindergartens and other public-sector canteens, according to a new study.
Research from the University of Copenhagen found that organic food had a 39% market share in the Swedish public sector, compared to 22% in Denmark and just 1% in Norway.
Academics say the findings, released in a report from the university’s Department of Food and Resource Economics, highlight the success of setting Swedish municipalities targets for organic food procurement in their kitchens.
“Sweden in particular, but also Denmark in part, should to be regarded as countries with successful track records in introducing organic meals into the public sector, while Norway’s efforts seem to have failed,” Professor Carsten Daugbjerg, the report’s author, said in a statement from the university.
He described the policy in Sweden of linking organic food with public health – and not just with sustainability – as “an important explanation for Sweden’s success” in increasing the amount of organic food served.
“However, it is probably also related to Swedish municipalities being more receptive to the authority and objectives coming from Stockholm,” added Professor Daugbjerg.
Sweden’s policy for healthy public-sector food, known as SMART, links organic food with public health and is used in menu planning, according to the university. Denmark has lacked this effort to link organic food with public health.
While Denmark trails Sweden in organic food served in public-sector settings, Professor Daugbjerg said the country’s efforts to expand the market for organic food overall had been “successful”.
“Over time, efforts to stimulate demand have ranged from motivating and assisting supermarket chains in their marketing of organic products, to engaging public sector kitchen staff. This occurred while production grew. And, I think the EU can learn a lot from this,” he said.
He said close links between Organic Denmark, an umbrella organisation for 200 companies and 940 organic food farmers, and the country’s Ministry of Environment had helped the sector to grow. About 12% of Denmark’s food sales are for organic products.
The university noted that the EU would like one quarter of its farmland to be organic, but Professor Daugbjerg said assistance schemes to encourage farmers to convert to organic production needed to be complemented by efforts to increase demand, with Denmark’s initiatives offering a good example.

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