Sweden to Label Foods’ Footprints


Buying food really was a whole lot easier a hundred years ago. There was less choice, the food was usually homegrown or locally grown, and there was little in the way of additives and preservatives. Plus, the shoppers back then didn’t have to read the food labels to find out how many nutrients, calories or fat content a product contained.

Today’s shopper, on the other hand, is spoilt for choice. But along with the choice come responsibilities and obstacles – the 100 mile rule, organic vs. non-organic, food labels, sugar content, trans fats, preservatives, packaging, BPA – that can make a trip to the supermarket seem more like a university exam than a shopping expedition.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get more complicated, the Swedes, who have been at the forefront of many new carbon emission reduction initiatives (including burning bunnies for fuel) have come up with new food guidelines and labels that will list a food’s carbon-emissions rating.

It’s part of an experiment that the Nutrition Department at the Swedish National Food Administration is running in an attempt to encourage people to consider not only their health but the health of the environment when they are choosing the food they eat.

This experiment came about following a 2005 study by Sweden’s national environmental agency that determined that a quarter of their national per capita emissions was directly attributable to the food Swedes ate, such as meat, farmed salmon, greenhouse tomatoes, bananas, rice, bottled water and soda.

As a result, the National Foods Administration has created food guidelines that highlights better food choices that work for both the environment and people’s health.

If all Swedes were to follow the guidelines set out by the National Foods Administration, it is estimated that Sweden could cut carbon emissions that result from food production by 20 to 50 percent.

Along with the guidelines, new “climate declared” food labels will be appearing on food products found in grocery stores and on restaurant menus around the country. Each label will list the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that result from the production of each food product.

It will be worth watching to see how effective Sweden’s new food guidelines and labels actually are.

To find out more, read this New York Times article.

Image: timsamoff