Dairy a ‘basic building block of a sustainable diet’

Dairy Industry Ireland (DII) has issued a response to the EAT – Lancet report, underlining the nutritional importance of dairy products in the diet of a growing global population and the significance of the dairy sector.

The Ibec group gave its views on the report, which has recommended a drastic reduction in people’s intakes of meat and dairy, among other foods.

DII has said that it understands the need to supply more food, more efficiently, adding that the sector has been actively responding to this requirement – and the general need for sustainability – for some time.

Ireland has the lowest dairy carbon footprint per litre of milk produced in the EU – and one of the lowest on the planet, according to third-party scientific reports.

DII highlighted that the report notes, outside of Europe and North America, most of the world’s populations do not meet their daily required intake of dairy.

The authors assess that a diet that includes up to 500g of dairy daily would improve nutritional status of the population.

The DII has welcomed an aspect of the report highlighting the importance of meeting dietary recommendations to achieve a beneficial health impact, with the nutritional value of milk and dairy for human health and nutrition recognised.

The industry representative organisation notes, however, “some other important aspects, such as the scientifically-proven superior quality of milk proteins and the natural nutrient richness of dairy as well its affordability, could be also included”.

“Dairy Industry Ireland welcomes discussion and fair scrutiny of our systems but, from a science-based perspective, we strongly believe that the Irish dairy system has a huge part to play in supplying nutritious, sustainable dairy to populations both at home and abroad,” a spokesperson said.

Solutions

The representative for the group added that a range of solutions is needed to reach the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

It is not just about feeding the world a certain number of calories, according to DII; it is about nourishing people with nutrient-rich food such as milk and dairy, which encourage optimal growth and performance.

Dairy is one of the basic building blocks of a sustainable diet in most countries and Ireland is no exception. Dairy foods provide many essential nutrients, including high-quality protein; they are also accessible, convenient and affordable.

The group highlighted that the National Dairy Council works with recommendations from the Department of Health, which are based on the totality of scientific evidence.

This advice recommends three servings from the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group each day as part of a balanced diet, due to the wide range of essential nutrients provided by dairy.

Recent data indicates that 42% of Irish teenage girls have inadequate calcium intakes, the spokesperson said.

We are concerned that these newly-proposed recommendations could exasperate nutritional inadequacies across the population and have knock-on implications for the health of future generations.

Moreover, dairy cows convert often inedible or less nutritious foodstuffs and by-products from other food production systems into food that is highly nutritious allowing people to thrive, the representative said.

The dairy sector remains a fundamental bedrock of the Irish economy supporting 18,000 family farms and 70,000 livelihoods, with almost €5 billion in exports annually of a range of products from milk to pharmaceuticals.

“World-leading initiatives” such as the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme from Bord Bia, and the Dairy Sustainability Ireland initiative are highlighted by the group as examples of the sector’s efforts to sustainable production with measurable credentials.

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