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Sweden boasts better food than Italy: report

Published: 16 Jan 2014 15:44 GMT+01:00
Updated: 16 Jan 2014 17:24 GMT+01:00

Every year, hordes of Swedes flock to Italy, Spain, and Greece in search not only of sunlight, but also a chance to indulge in fresh pasta, savoury tapas, or tasty feta cheese.

But hungry Swedes may be better off staying home and stuffing themselves with meatballs and herring, a new Oxfam global food index published on Wednesday reveals.

Sweden was placed fourth among 125 countries, sharing the spot with Denmark, Austria, and Belgium, and ahead of Italy, Spain, and Greece.

I'm thrilled,"  Madeleine van der Veer, spokeswoman for Rural Affairs Minister Eskil Erlandsson, told The Local. "I've always known that Swedish food is good enough to make Sweden Europe's premier country when it comes to food."

SEE ALSO: Ten Swedish foods to remember

The ranking, which compares countries based on food quality, availability, and price, found the Netherlands to be the "best place to eat".

European countries dominated the top of the rankings but Australia made it into the top ten, to tie with Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Luxembourg at number eight. The United Kingdom was tied at 13th, with the United States landing in 21st place.

For the last five years, Sweden has been engaged in a proactive campaign to raise the country's profile as a culinary nation.

The campaign was launched back in 2008 with Erlandsson boasting that the 'Matlandet Sverige' campaign was "going to put Sweden on the world map as a country of good food".

Since the launch of the campaign, the number of food-related companies in Sweden has risen by ten percent, according to figures from the ministry.

In addition, Sweden's food exports are up 23 percent since 2008, bucking a general trend of slumping exports in the wake of the financial crisis.

Van der Veer sees the growth in Sweden's food industry and the Oxfam ranking as evidence that the world is starting to notice Swedish food.

"I'm convinced that the Matlandet campaign has helped draw attention to Swedish food," she said. "Today, 'foodies' choose to travel to Sweden to try fermented herring (surströmming), reindeer, and new restaurants both in the cities and in rural areas."

IN PICTURES: Top ten googled foods in Sweden

While the initiative may have failed to deliver when it comes helping spur jobs and economic growth in rural areas, the government's efforts have raised the profile of Swedish cuisine abroad, with a wave of Swedish-themed eateries popping up in New York and London in recent years.

"It's exciting to see how we've succeeded in exporting the 'fika', cinnamon buns, crisp bread, and meatballs," said van der Veer. 

Oxfam compiled the report to draw attention to inequality in access to healthy and affordable food around the world.

“Poverty and inequality are the real drivers of hunger. Hunger happens where governance is poor, distribution weak, when markets fail,” Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said in a statement. “Having sufficient healthy and affordable food is not something that much of the world enjoys.”

As well as affordability and health, the index weighed up the percentage of malnourished children, the diversity of food as well as food-related health problems like diabetes and obesity.

The rankings were based on figures from the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Foundation, the International Labour Organization and other international organizations. 

DON'T MISS: Ten soul-satisfying Swedish comfort foods

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David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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