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Introduction

Along with housing and transportation, food is one of households’ consumption categories which causes the highest environmental impacts on the climate. According to the study “The Environmental Impact of Products”[1], the ‘food and drink’ category causes 20 to 30% of the various environmental impacts of total consumption. Within this area of consumption, meat and meat products have the greatest environmental impact.

The fruit and vegetable sector has been proactive in developing sustainable agricultural practices to cope with increased requirements from consumers and is continuously looking for improvements in the supply chain. The sector has seen the highest uptake of organic and integrated farming systems and is addressing its GHG emissions through the establishment of a carbon footprint methodology, increasingly efficient greenhouse production, improved logistics, carbon offsetting schemes, etc.

The relevance of environmental labels in general remains uncertain as they might be too complex for consumers which are mostly not interested and do not have enough time to consider complex messages. Acknowledging the complexity of the debate, EU food chain partners including Freshfel have set up a joint initiative, the Food Sustainable Consumption & Production Roundtable, in order to collectively address the challenges regarding the assessment of methodologies and communication tools, whilst also exchanging best practices.

Discussions on environmental sustainability often tend to overlook the health and nutritional aspects of foodstuffs. Given the benefits of fresh produce compared to other food categories both from an environmental and nutritional point of view, stakeholders are increasingly promoting a change of attitudes and motivating consumers to move their habits towards fresh fruit and vegetables.

The Double Pyramid model (Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition) combines the well-known food pyramid with the environmental pyramid, based on an estimation of the environmental impact of each foodstuff in terms of generation of greenhouse gases, consumption of water resources and use of territory. According to the research, the average global ecological footprint of 100 g of vegetables in season is 5 m2. Regarding fruit, the average global ecological footprint of 100 g of fruit is 3 m2. At the other end of the pyramid, the average global ecological footprint of 100 g of red meat is 92 m2.

[1] European Commission (2006): Environmental Impact of Products (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ipp/identifying.htm).

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