A combined nutritional and environmental food labelling system has been made possible by Sheffield Hallam University's discovery of a link between food products' nutritional value and their carbon emissions.
Students examined the supply chain of several high street bakery products, including a sausage roll, a strawberry tart and a ham and tomato sandwich. They calculated carbon emissions at each stage of production. Results revealed between 14 and 34 grams of carbon dioxide for the products.
"If you pile oils into a product, it's going to be energy dense," said research fellow Dr Wayne Martindale, who is working on the university's Food Innovation Project. "If I ate bacon or sausage sandwiches, which have relatively high carbon emissions, it wouldn't be very healthy for me or the environment. The results suggest our food chain can operate at high levels of efficiency whether we're using livestock or vegetable products and whether or not they are organically produced."
However, he said energy efficiency could still be improved. "Feeding six billion people is only possible if we maximise global efficiency."
Martindale said a combined nutritional and environmental label was a "fantastic" idea. "We should all have the correct facts to make the choices we want when buying food. Farmers, manufacturers and retailers are doing much to improve this with logos and traffic-light labels."
The Food Innovation Project is a £1.3M initiative funded by the Higher Education Funding Council England, due to end in March 2008.