Sweden Labels Food With CO2 Data

The Swedish government in 2009 announced new food guidelines that recommend eating habits based on greenhouse-gas emissions. Experts say these guidelines, if heeded by consumers, could decrease Sweden’s emissions by 20 to 50 percent.

More than 92 percent of Swedes want more information about the “green credentials” of their food, and producers responded to satisfy customers. Some Swedish companies have labeled their products to show how many kilograms of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere during production.

One Swedish burger chain, Max, offers beef alternatives and signed on enthusiastically to the new recommendations. It became the first restaurant chain to publish carbon footprints of menu items to encourage people to eat less beef.

Determining food’s carbon footprint is difficult and nuanced. Complex production lines make it difficult to track the carbon footprint of an individual product, and consumer suggestions are not as simple as “eat less meat.” For example, the guidelines discourage Swedes from eating cucumbers and tomatoes because in Sweden they can only be grown in energy-consuming greenhouses. Low-impact vegetables like carrots are recommended over the less climate-friendly ones.

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