Dutch beat French and Swiss to top Oxfam’s new global food table

Published: 15th January 2014

The Netherlands is No. 1 in the world for having the most plentiful, nutritious, healthy and affordable diet, beating France and Switzerland into second place. Chad is last in 125th spot behind Ethiopia and Angola, according to a new food database by worldwide development organization Oxfam.

European countries occupy the entire top 20 bar one – Australia ties in 8th place – while the US, Japan, New Zealand, Brazil and Canada all fall outside. African countries occupy the bottom 30 places in the table except for four – Laos, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India are there too.

Oxfam’s “Good Enough to Eat” index compares 125 countries where full data is available to create a snapshot of the different challenges people face in getting food. Oxfam’s GROW campaign is calling for urgent reform to the way food is produced and distributed around the world to end the scandal of one in eight people going hungry despite there being enough to feed everyone. The new index looks at whether people have enough to eat, food quality, affordability, and dietary health.

4 concerns around food

On affordability, the UK is among the worst performers in Western Europe, sharing 20th position with Cyprus. Food in Guinea, The Gambia, Chad and Iran costs people two-and-a-half times more than other consumer goods, making those the most expensive countries for citizens to buy food. The price of food in the US is relatively the cheapest and most stable in the world. Angola and Zimbabwe suffer from the most volatile food prices, researchers found.

The countries whose citizens struggle for enough food, with the worst rates of malnourishment and underweight children, are Burundi, Yemen, Madagascar and India. On the other side of the table, Cambodia and Burundi are countries that score better by having among the lowest levels of obesity and diabetes in the world, while US, Mexico, Fiji, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia score most poorly with high rates of obesity and diabetes.

Iceland scores a perfect mark for the quality of its food, in terms of nutritional diversity and safe water. Iceland’s obesity and diabetes levels push it down the table, to 13th spot. Similarly, unhealthy eating pushes the US down to 21st place.

The real drivers of hunger

Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said: “This index lays bare the common concerns that people have with food regardless of where they come from. It reveals how the world is failing to ensure that everyone is able to eat healthily, despite there being enough to go around.”

“Poverty and inequality are the real drivers of hunger. Hunger happens where governance is poor, distribution weak, when markets fail, and when people don’t have enough money and resources to buy all the goods and services they need,” she said. “Having sufficient healthy and affordable food is not something that much of the world enjoys.”

Oxfam is working worldwide to provide long-term solutions that will help people grow enough food to eat and make a living. In Chad, Oxfam is helping farmers grow and diversify more crops, providing veterinary training to help ensure cattle are stronger and helping to build more food storage, so that people are better prepared with the next drought conditions.

Oxfam’s GROW campaign is calling for more investment in small-holder agriculture and better infrastructure to boost crop production, prevent waste and improve access to markets. It wants an end to biofuels targets, which are diverting food from hungry people to fuel tanks, action to tackle climate change, better regulation of food commodities markets to prevent food price hikes and improved land rights so people do not lose the land they rely upon to grow food.

Having sufficient healthy and affordable food is not something that much of the world enjoys.
Winnie Byanyima
Oxfam International Executive Director

Notes to editors

The index looks at four core concerns for consumers around the world, using two measures to help assess the challenges:

  1. Do people have enough to eat? – Measured by levels of undernourishment and underweight children
  2. Can people afford to eat? – Measured by food price levels compared to other goods and services and food price volatility
  3. Is food of good quality? – Measured by diet diversification and access to clean and safe water
  4. What are the health outcomes of people’s diet? – Measured by diabetes and obesity.

Eight established global data sources were identified that capture aspects of the food market relevant for this index. All figures are the most recently available global data sources from internationally recognized organizations – The Food and Agriculture Organization, The World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization. To create a globally comparable index, the sources have global coverage, scoring between 134 and 200 countries and territories.

Each of the sources used different scales in measuring the countries, requiring a process to standardize them so that they could be compared. The standard MIN / MAX rescaling method was used, generating re-scaled values of 0-100 where 0 points is the minimum score (best) and 100 points is the maximum score (worst). The process is based on identifying the countries with the minimum and maximum scores in the original data, scoring them 0 and 100 respectively and then measuring how far every other country is from these maximum and minimum values.

All countries with data for each measure were included in the re-scaling process to ensure that the final result was a globally comparable one. However, only the countries that had data for all eight measures were included in the final index, with one exception. For most developed countries, there is no data available for the underweight children measure. For those countries that achieved the minimum score for the undernourishment measure they were assumed to also be amongst the best in the world for measures for underweight children. The Good Enough To Eat database therefore includes 125 countries. That some of the measures do not include minimum or maximum scores illustrates that there are countries that are better or worse but are not included in the index because they do not have data available for the other measures. The data is available in full at: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what-we-do/good-enough-to-eat. Raw data of all countries is available.

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Core Questions and MeasuresBest CountryWorst Country
Good Enough to Eat (Combined Scores) The Netherlands (6) Chad (50)
1. Enough to Eat Multiple countries (28 score 0) Burundi (89)
Undernourishment Multiple (62 countries score 0) Burundi (100)
Underweight Children Multiple (28 countries score 0) India (96)
2. Afford to Eat USA (6) Angola (90)
Food Price Level (relative to other goods and services) The Netherlands (6) Guinea (100)
Food Price Inflation Volatility Japan, Canada and the US (1) Angola and Zimbabwe (100)^
3. Food Quality Iceland (0) Madagascar (86)
Diet Diversification Iceland (0) Bangladesh and Lesotho (98)
Access to Clean and Safe Water Multiple (32 countries score 0) Mozambique (75)
4. Unhealthy Eating Cambodia (1) Saudi Arabia (54)
Diabetes Cambodia (0) Saudi Arabia (61)
Obesity Bangladesh, Nepal and Ethiopia (0) Kuwait (58)

Sources used

Contact information

The Good Enough to Eat index, which includes the raw figures, an online graphic of the data and a media brief is available. For this, more information or to arrange interviews contact:

  • Anna Ratcliff, +44-7796993288, anna.ratcliff@oxfaminternational.org

Graphic: Best place to eat - Oxfam map