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UK - June 28, 2021

How green are your groceries? Eco labels will soon let you know

Food and drink products in Europe are to be given environmental ratings to help people make sustainable choices at the supermarket

Just how green are your greens? A new traffic light system that gives food products an eco rating will soon let you know. The front-of-pack environmental scores are to be trialled in the UK from September, with a view of rolling them out across Europe in 2022. 

Products including meat, milk and vegetables will be graded on their carbon emissions, biodiversity impact and water usage from farm to supermarket. Scores will be based on the individual merit of a product, rather than a generic rating for a food type.

The labels will look similar to the stickers already used by manufacturers to display the salt, sugar, fat and calorie content of foodstuffs. Products will be given a rating of A* to G, as well as a red, amber or green colour.

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The system will be overseen by a new European non profit called Foundation Earth. It was launched to help people navigate the bewildering and sometimes contradictory information that shrouds the subject of food sustainability. 

Foundation Earth represents a potentially significant post-Brexit collaboration between the UK and EU. It is backed by governments on either side of the English Channel, along with major European supermarkets and the food giant Nestlé.  

The system will be trialled in the UK by brands including M&S, Costa Coffee and the organic food delivery company Abel & Cole. The pilot will include products with good and bad ratings to see whether people change their buying habits. A full European rollout of the rating system is expected in 2022. 

The environmental scores will help people make sustainable choices

Andy Zynga, chief executive of EIT Food, the European Commission’s food innovation programme, said: “The launch of Foundation Earth is a very significant moment for the European food industry. It will bring about a credible and clear front-of-pack environmental labelling system on food products right across the continent.” 

Such transparency, supporters argue, will encourage supply chains to go greener. This is vital if nations are to meet legally-binding climate targets: according to the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change, the food industry  accounts for 37 per cent of global greenhouse gases. Under a business-as-usual scenario, that figure is predicted to rise by another 30 per cent by 2050.   

Prof Chris Elliott, chair of the foundation’s scientific advisory committee, said: “The development of a more transparent, sustainable global food supply system is of huge importance to the health of our planet and health of all citizens.”

Main image: NRD

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