The Chilled Food Association (CFA) has dismissed the carbon footprint labelling of individual products as “misguided”, “expensive” and “potentially misleading”, claiming that carbon footprinting a business would be more practical.
Co-sponsored by the Carbon Trust and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the British Standards Institute (BSI) is currently consulting on the Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 2050 for the measurement of embodied greenhouse gas emissions in products and services. But CFA general secretary Kaarin Goodburn has argued that a carbon reduction label is not viable for chilled foods, which often have multiple components.“The calculation of the carbon density of any given chilled food will be complicated, time-consuming, resource-hungry and expensive,” she said. “In addition, it will be confusing for consumers if the carbon footprint labelling of a food changes because of ingredient alterations.” For example, she explained that the same raw ingredients can be sourced from different countries dependent on seasonality and availability.
She also claimed that the way in which consumers prepared foods was an area manufacturers couldn’t take into account, yet it could have a major impact on the product’s carbon footprint. “If you’re talking about a ready meal, then different heating methods could have a huge impact on a product’s carbon footprint,” she said. Microwaving, for instance, is far more energy efficient than cooking with a conventional oven.
“We favour the carbon footprinting of a business which we believe to be far more relevant to identifying and addressing areas for carbon reduction,” she said. “Within the BSI and Carbon Trust activity there should be an opportunity for businesses that have made a commitment to reduce their carbon footprint to be recognised as opposed to each product carrying carbon footprint labelling.”
Although the Carbon Trust admitted that carbon labelling was complex, it insisted that it was vital in order to reduce green house gas. “We believe that footprinting and reducing carbon at company and product levels are critical and necessary and that both are not mutually exclusive,” said Euan Murray, carbon footprinting general manager at the Carbon Trust. He claimed the businesses that had been involved in its product labelling initiative, such as Walkers Snack Foods, recognised the value of collaborating with the Carbon Trust. “It has helped them quantify carbon emissions, save costs, inform increasingly conscientious consumers and at the end of the day ensure they are doing their bit to move towards a low carbon future.”
Murray was confident that the labelling process would become more straightforward as the initiative gathered momentum. “As more companies and industries engage in labelling, a new breed of management frameworks, ERP [enterprise resource planning] systems, and the development of chain of custody and collaborative databases will help simplify the process.”
The first stage of the PAS 2050 consultation was held last October and the second stage will conclude this month.