Supermarkets could soon identifying food with “green” labels to help consumers make eco-friendly food choices when shopping. An Oxford University team trained a computer algorithm to calculate the environmental impact of 57,000 supermarket products so that shoppers can see the environmental impact of the food they buy.
The database scores food and drink products, assessing the impact of growing methods, processing and transport against key environmental measures such as greenhouse gas emissions and impacts on nature: the higher the score, the higher the environmental impact. Eco-labelling may involve a traffic light system or a QR code linking to more information to allow access to environmental information about different foods.
The initiative represents the first simple method for calculating the impact of products with multiple ingredients and several corporations in the retail sector are said to be already showing an interest.
Oxford University professor Peter Scarborough told BBC News he hopes that the research leads to an eco-labelling system for customers as the food industry has been crying out for the new tool.
The study also found that plant-based alternatives are often greener than meat or dairy-based options, with vegan sausages typically scoring an environmental impact around 90% lower than beef sausages.