GAIN Briefing Paper Series 8 - GAIN's definition of nutritious and safe foods


GAIN’s mission and strategy revolve around the core concept of "nutritious and safe foods". In addition, there is a growing consensus that foods should be produced sustainably - i.e., that one should take into account the environmental impact associated with the production of these foods. Regularly achieving alignment and consistency across its programmes in the understanding and implementation of these concepts is of crucial importance to GAIN.

This briefing paper aims to share the definition GAIN uses of 'nutritious and safe foods,' present environmental impact levers for sustainable production, and provide relevant examples for guidance. This definition may be useful for others, either as the end point or starting point of an organisation’s journey to define nutritious and safe foods. GAIN defines a “nutritious” food as a food that in the context where it is consumed, and for the individual who consumes it, provides beneficial nutrients and minimises potentially harmful elements. We have categorised nutritious foods into four different types:

  1. high inherent nutritional value;
  2. enhanced nutritional value;
  3. some nutritional value; and
  4. source of added nutrients.

GAIN defines a "safe" food as a food that does not contain a contaminant or other attribute that increases the probability of poor health outcomes, in the context where it is consumed and for the individual who consumes it. Foodborne hazards can be biological, chemical, or physical in nature, and food contamination can occur at any stage along the supply chain. We have articulated key food safety considerations and risk-reduction measures to improve safety along the value chain by food group.

GAIN is also increasingly seeking to promote sustainably produced foods and has identified ten environmental impact levers. Nutritious and safe foods have the potential to be produced sustainably, depending on practices adopted and their suitability to the local context. We are committed to assessing and balancing the emerging synergies and trade-offs between nutrition, food safety, and sustainable production. 

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