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

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

Words: Gavin Haines

Photos: Various

Originally published in Positive News, 28 June 2021

Photo Chloe Frost-Smith / Unsplash
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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 shoppers 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.

How the new ecolabels for food products will look. Photo courtesy: Foundation Earth

The system will be overseen by a new European nonprofit 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 is 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 development of a more transparent, sustainable global food supply system is of huge importance”

Professor Chris Elliott, Foundation Earth

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. Foundation Earth is aiming for a full European rollout of the rating system in 2022.

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.”

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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% of global greenhouse gases. Under a business-as-usual scenario, that figure is predicted to rise by 30% by 2050.

Professor 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.”


This article originally appeared in Positive News on 28 June, 2021. Positive News are pioneers of constructive journalism that is rigorous, relevant, and focuses on progress, possibility and solutions.