The front-of-pack Eco-Score food label is familiar to consumers. It assesses the environmental impact of a product through colour coding and a score out of 100. The score also takes into account the product’s packaging, and a score reduction of up to 15 points is applied to products with packaging that is not recyclable.
The news that two big retailers Colruyt and Lidl have announced to trial EcoScore for their own applications and specific product lines hit the headlines recently.
The calculation of the score relies on specific life cycle assessment (LCA) data from the ADEME’s (Agence de la transition écologique) Agribalyse project. The French agency has previously evaluated the environmental impact of at least 2,500 products and compiled them into a database. The ecological footprint label considers, among others, impacts such as climate change, water use, land use, as well as acidification.
Although it’s familiar, critics say the scheme oversimplifies the assessment of a product’s environmental impact for consumers. However, is that fair? From a consumer’s point of view, the simpler the better. We don’t want to spend time in the aisles deciphering code. Make it easy to understand and we can move on and enjoy the food.
Similarly to the Nutri-score label, the Eco-score works using a colour-coded system, going from green to red, in combination with the letters A to E and a points system ranging from 100 to 0. If an item has the lowest level of impact on the environment, it is awarded a green A, and if it has the greatest it is given a red E.
The label system devised by the companies La Fourche, Yuka, FoodChéri, Seazon, Marmiton, Etiquettable, Open Food Facts, ECO2 initiative, ScanUp and Frigo Magic is based on product information from manufacturers and takes the pollution caused throughout the entire value-added chain into account, from obtaining the raw materials to disposal and/or recycling.
It’ll need some fine tuning even though it is being rolled out across stores. Evaluation is key. We can’t have a situation where intensively-farmed products may not deserve their rating.
In any event, the nutrition label is being seen more and more often on packaging in Europe three years after its introduction. Consumers will undoubtedly change their purchasing habits on seeing the logo. The measuring system is also designed to help retailers to improve the environmental score of their own brands, particularly at a time when consumers are making healthier choices to support their own health.
Being healthy without sustainable practices won’t work any more. Building sustainability into the healthy foods we eat is important to consume sustainably produced food that are planet-friendly.
- Rodney Jack, editor, Food & Drink Technology.
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