Do all new food products need carbon labelling even in 2021?

A start-up company called Foodsteps offers a carbon labelling scheme, pictured.

Adding carbon labels to vegan menus was a logical progression for Lou Palmer-Masterton, three vegan restaurants.

All three Stem & Glory locations already offer reusable lunch boxes and cups, but she wanted to go a step further.

The menus for the two outlets in London and the Cambridge outlet will include carbon dioxide emission scores.

Ms Palmer-Masterton remarks, “I’ve considered this issue for a while now, but I still had questions regarding our products’ environmental impacts.”

It makes sense now that there is an explosion of carbon labelling.”

Carbon labelling in food and drink | Ethical Consumer

Lou Palmer-Masterton says the public seeks carbon labels.

Stem & Glory has partnered with a UK start-up tech firm called Food-steps to calculate and display its carbon score for each dish.

The Food-steps website and app, set to launch in 2020, allows restaurant chains and food firms to estimate carbon dioxide emissions by specific products or dishes.


A database maintained by Food-steps contains all the information necessary to calculate carbon dioxide emissions, including fertilizer types, delivery methods, cooking methods, packaging techniques, and any refrigerated or frozen storage.

Food-steps says it reviewed thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies, along with its primary research, to gather all this information.

The Food-steps carbon score is displayed on menus or packaging by restaurants and food companies who join the scheme. Scores range from A (very low) to E (very high). Additionally, they can integrate a QR code that links to another website that emphasizes the food item’s other environmental credentials.


The carbon score of a food item can only be calculated by calculating the impact of every stage in the production process.

Anya Doherty founded Food-steps as a postgraduate student at the University of Cambridge researching sustainable food systems.

The Food steps system is detailed down to minor details. To calculate a food’s carbon footprint, it is necessary to understand how food passes through different life cycles.

Consider, for example, how a crop will act based on its location and the kind of fertilizer it uses.

On the 26th conference of parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Glasgow, global leaders discussed reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Earlier this year, a report indicated that 40% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities might be attributed to the food sector.

 Carbon labelling

However, companies interested in adopting carbon labelling usually have difficulty choosing which scheme to use, as there are now several different schemes available.

Among them is Footsteps, which currently has 20 or so clients and is funded by the government agency Innovate UK.

A long-standing carbon labelling system provided by the UK’s Carbon Trust is also based in the UK. In 2001, the British government launched this organization, and it is now a private company, and its labelling services are offered internationally.

Foundation Earth’s not-for-profit organization also offers a new certification scheme that incorporates carbon emissions into a broader environmental impact score. The idea is supported by most of the major supermarkets in the UK, including Nestle.

While Unilever is working on its carbon label, the company behind Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and Persil washing power are preparing to launch its carbon label.


Anya Doherty says that figuring out an item’s carbon score is like solving a puzzle.

The Carbon Trust says the growing number of carbon labelling schemes should use the correct calculations.

Currently, there are a growing number of carbon labelling schemes available. Still, if we are to maintain rigorous standards, we prefer a cradle-to-grave approach to carbon footprinting for products meant for consumers.

In addition, we use internationally recognized methodologies to measure carbon footprints. We use high quality, transparent, primary data to make an analysis.”


As a report for the Carbon Trust found, a majority of consumers support carbon labelling.

An Ipsos poll found that 67% of adults across France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US supported the labelling.

According to Christopher Kong, owner of a meat-alternative company in the UK, carbon labelling will make it less likely that the food industry will be swamped by “untruths, ‘greenwashing,’ and unfulfilled promises”.

We gave an “A” grade to Better Nature’s products that contain tempeh, fermented whole soybeans.

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Professor Mohini Sain is an international authority on biodegradable packaging for food. He has the main question regarding carbon labelling whether it can ever be effective without governments enforcing it on all companies.

The business will only label products that get an ‘A’, he asks, but not those that receive an ‘F’.

Unlike some countries, which mandate nutrition labels on all products, no policy compels them to release all their product labels.

France hopes to have a carbon labelling system in place by 2023, one of several countries looking to introduce mandatory carbon labelling.

The UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) say it is considering making carbon labelling mandatory, but it has not yet decided whether to do so.

In the UK, food information must not mislead consumers, says a Defra spokesperson, which applies to environmental claims.

In the forthcoming Food Strategy White Paper, we will review all aspects of food labelling to ensure consumers can make safe and informed choices and that businesses can be successful.

She says that the public would support mandatory labels back at restaurant firm Stem & Glory. Consumers want to know how their purchases impact their daily lives in terms of carbon emissions.

edited and proofread by: nikita sharma 

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