Food footprint under scrutiny

Efforts are underway to draw up a standard way to calculate the carbon footprint of goods produced in the UK, allowing consumers to make more informed choices and companies to see where cuts might most easily be made.

Defra and the Carbon Trust have teamed up with the British Standards Institution (BSI) to develop a consistent method of measuring greenhouse gas emissions associated with products which, when completed, will be published as a Publicly Available Standard (PAS).

The PAS is the basic building block of the BSI's kitemarking regime.

Environmental consultancy ADAS has been appointed to carry out a dry run of the measuring system, looking at how the emissions of food production might be calculated.

The results will be valuable to the food industry as they can be used to assess not only the green credentials of different food supply chains and different products, but also the relative efficiency of organic over conventional farming and self-sufficiency over importation.

In particular, they will provide an indication of those parts of the food chain that are GHG hotspots to enable carbon reduction strategies to be developed.

Jeremy Wiltshire, ADAS senior consultant, said: "We are very excited about this project - once a PAS is established, it may be applied across a wide range of product categories.

"It will also provide a tool to predict the environmental impacts of future food production methods, helping the move towards a low-carbon economy.

"The process of gathering GHG data is fairly complex - we devise a process diagram for each product, charting all GHG outputs.

"It's essential that every component is accounted for, from the fuels burned by the tractor, to gases emitted in soil processes and during storage of commodities."

Sam Bond

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