Carbon Labels Could Be Standard For Food in U.K.

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What’s the environmental impact of that bag of chips you had for lunch? Consumers in the U.K. would like to know before they buy, according to a recent study conducted by Newcastle Business School of Northumbria University.

Of the 432 U.K. supermarket shoppers who responded to the study, almost three-fourths are in favor of carbon labels, which have already become increasingly prominent in the U.K. Tesco, Britian’s largest supermarket chain, prints carbon labels on some of its 70,000 products.

Photo: Flickr/Joey Yen

Clearer and more widespread use of carbon labeling may help more consumers purchase food with the importance of climate change in mind. Photo: Flickr/Joey Yen

But little is understood as to how effective carbon labels are in initiating meaningful carbon reductions, according to Zaina Gadema, a logistics and supply chain management researcher at Newcastle Business School.

“Confusion is widespread in terms of carbon labeling,” says Gadema.

Though 72 percent of those surveyed would like information on the product carbon footprint, 83 percent of respondents do not know their own carbon footprint.

The survey also reveals that shoppers have shifted toward buying more fair trade, organic, and free-range food products, which suggests a growing concern about climate change and food purchasing.

“The most recent issue for consumers has been that of climate change,” explains Gadema. “But many do not know enough about carbon footprinting methods or the information presented to make a qualified choice in terms of product purchase decisions.”

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