Standards urged for green labelling

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food products Greenhouse gas Carbon dioxide

The UK government needs to put more resources into promoting better environmental labelling on products and push harder on setting the standards for labelling schemes, claims a all-party group of politicians.

The Environmental Audit Committee, in a new report, said that the​government has a role to play in policing the use of environmental labels on products and should intervene to remove those found to be inaccurate or misleading.

Greenwashing

The Committee claims than an increasing number of companies are engaged in making meaningless claims about the greenness of their supply chains or production processes.

“In our view, there is a real risk of greenwash from organisations seeking to gain a competitive advantage from being perceived as green whilst paying only ‘lip-service’ to the issue.

“Effective environmental labelling must be part of a wider partnership between government, consumers and business if the goal of a more sustainable economy is to be achieved,”​ stated the Committee.

Monitoring

The politicians maintain that clear labels are needed to help consumers make informed choices, but for consumers to consider environmental labels to be credible, they must be backed up by independent monitoring that is fully verified.

According to the Committee, there is a strong argument for environmental and indeed ethical labelling to build on the lead given by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) with their ‘traffic light’ approach to nutrition labelling, which they claims is admirable in its simplicity.

The politicians said they welcomed the Carbon Trust and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)’s work with British Standards to develop a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) for the measurement of the embodied greenhouse gases (GHGs) in food and drink products.

“We have, however, concerns that numerous different labels representing carbon dioxide, greenhouse gas emissions, or mode of transport, will create confusion and not enable consumers to make informed choices and adopt ‘low carbon’ diets,”​ stated the report.

European perspective

Meanwhile, last month MEPs rejected European Commission proposals to include food products in an extended Eco-label scheme, arguing that the Commission needs to undertake a study to establish whether reliable environmental criteria can be defined for food products, prior to their inclusion in the environmental labelling directive.

Last July, the Commission introduced new proposals to extend the environmental labelling scheme to food products on the basis that the food industry has “one of the greatest environmental impacts in terms of production and consumption​.”

The Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA) has continually voiced its opposition to the extension to the Eco-label regulation to food products, claiming the scheme would mislead rather than inform consumers about the sustainability of food products as it fails to take account of the life cycle principal.

The CIAA says that the rapid changing of recipes, formulation and sourcing would make the system incompatible with some of the facets of modern food provision.

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