Swedish emissions cutting efforts focus on dinner plates

Publish date: October 26, 2009

In the battle against climate change, Sweden has decided no crumb is too small to ignore. The country has been experimenting with food labeling that lists the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the production of foods in an effort it hopes will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, The New York Times reports.

“We’re the first to do it, and it’s a new way of thinking for us,” said Ulf Bohman, head of the Nutrition Department at the Swedish National Food Administration, according to the paper.  “We’re used to thinking about safety and nutrition as one thing and environmental as another.”

Some of the country’s dietary guidelines, released this summer, include recommending carrots over cucumbers and tomatoes. The latter two, unlike carrots, must be grown in heated greenhouses, the NACS Online website reported.   

Sweden’s largest farming group, Lantmannen, has begun labeling food to explain their environmental impact and to steer consumers toward climate-friendly choices. At least one QSR has aligned itself with the initiative, as hamburger chain Max has begun listing emissions calculations next to menu board items, the online news agency said.

Experts say that if the food guidelines are followed, Sweden could reduce its emissions from food production by up to 50 percent, it said.   

Sweden’s labeling effort emerged after a 2005 Swedish study reported that 25 percent of national per capita emissions stemmed from food consumption.