We already have the traffic light labels to tell us what danger we’re in from that high percentage of fat in our butter and “how useful that is!” I hear you cry. Perhaps it is useful sometimes – I can’t say I’ve ever found it so. Now what is more difficult to know about your food and what I hope at least some people care about is the environmental impact of the produce that you are buying… we resort to looking at the country of origin, try to buy seasonally, buy locally etc. but this is not always the best approach. For example tomatoes grown in this country may have demanded significantly more energy through being grown in a heated and artificially lit greenhouse or stored in inert gas chambers for months rather than being flown over from southern Europe.
So the Swedes are trying out a labelling method which aims to clarify this a little. The idea, as I understand it, is that each foodstuff (eg. Tomatoes) has a reference (I guess the average?) climate impact and a particular product’s position relative to that average is calculated. So if you are a tomato that has been grown in a significantly (25%) more environmentally friendly manner than the reference product then you will get a gold star (or whatever). This, theoretically, takes into account everything that it took to get the food to the market – cultivation, harvesting, transportation and packaging. Of course no climate labelling scheme can be exhaustive or 100% accurate, but this seems like a pretty good effort (Tell me more…)
I, for one, will be interested to see how it goes and perhaps one day we might do something similar over here.
Ed: Incidentally the Swedes also did, in my opinion, a better method of the ‘health rating’ labelling using a keyhole symbol. Read more here.