LivingFood Products Need Environmental Impact Labels, Says Study

Food Products Need Environmental Impact Labels, Says Study

Previous research has evaluated the environmental impact of food products such as fruits, wheat or beef. But most food products contain a variety of different ingredients that have an impact on the environment during the production, harvesting, transportation and processing processes that are normally unknown, hence the importance of understanding the environmental footprint of all these steps. .

“The goal is to have a simpler, more rigorous quantitative way to inform consumers about the tens of thousands of different items they can buy at a grocery store,” explained David Tilman , an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a co-author. of the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

What did they discover?

Analysis of more than 57,000 food products that we consume on a daily basis revealed that beef and lamb have the greatest impact on the environment, with impacts far exceeding those of other products at the higher end of the scale. environmental impact, such as chicken, fish and shellfish, or nuts.

What are the foods with the least environmental impact?

In contrast, plant-based foods such as rice or flat breads, as well as processed beverages such as sodas or energy drinks, ranked with the lowest level of impact among the food products evaluated in this study .

For the researchers, diets with less processed foods, in general, tend to be less harmful to the environment. Hence, dairy products or highly processed grains are at the opposite extreme.

“The healthiest diets we know of are variations on the classic Mediterranean diet, which has many servings of fruits and vegetables a day and whole grains,” Tilman says. “Whole grain has the advantage of having fiber, which helps slow down the rate at which starch turns into sugar.”

Reference: Estimating the environmental impacts of 57,000 food products

Michael Clark Marco Springmann, Mike Rayner et al.

Edited by B. Turner, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ; received November 22, 2021; accepted June 21, 2022

August 8, 2022 119 (33) e2120584119 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2120584119

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