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Will 2020 bring Carbon Labeling of Foods?


Bob Swientek, Editor-in-Chief of Food Technology predicts that data relating to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions will soon be printed on food labels.  Swientek points to the promotional claim by Maple Leaf Foods as becoming carbon neutral.  Growing concern over the environmental and climatic effects of emission of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, especially among educated and affluent demographics suggests advantages to be derived from carbon claims.  The problems with labeling will include establishing standards, enforcing honesty and educating consumers as to the relevance of either numbers or color codes on labels indicating environmental compliance.

A number of chains have in the recent past indicated that they would demand environmentally- friendly production practices involving carbon emissions, both in products and packaging, in addition to conservation of water and deriving energy from other than hydrocarbons.


Since USDA has authority over labeling, it is hoped that they will gather information from regulators in the EU who are obviously ahead of the U.S. and will consult with the food industry before establishing standards and metrics.


In all probability U.S. food retailers with strong ties to the EU will follow the directives of their parent companies and introduce some form of carbon labeling in an attempt to gain a competitive advantages for their house brands.  Unfortunately unscrupulous manufacturers may make unsubstantiated claims for their products that will result in confusion among consumers and also will be amplified by misinformation posted on social media.