The Swedish National Food Administration already has a developed collection of guidelines and schemes on food choices, including the Food Circle depicting a healthy balanced diet, the Food Database, which gives the nutritional composition of 2000 foods and dishes, and the Keyhole symbol to help people easily recognise healthier choices.
It has now become the first national food agency to build a new set of guidelines that takes on board the environmental aspects of human food choices alongside individual health matters.
The guidelines, drawn up in partnership with the Environmental Agency, cover meat, fish, fruits and berries, vegetables and leguminous plants, potatoes cereals and rice, cooking fat, and water.
The aim is to give consumers a sound basis for the environmental decisions they make when food shopping. Inger Andersson, director-general of the National Food Administration, put the impact of choices into perspective: food production accounts for around a quarter of Swedes’ emissions.
The document, called 'Environmentally-smart Food Choices', (available in English here), is being circulated to the governments of other EU member states. If there are no major objections, they are likely to be introduced in Sweden within three months.
“Meat – beef, lamb, pork and chicken – is the foodstuff with the greatest impact on the environment,” say the guidelines.
Average annual consumption of meat in Sweden is 65kg per person per year – up more than 10kg on ten years ago. “From a health perspective there is no need to eat as much meat as we do,” they say.
It also recommends locally produced meats and those that have been fed on natural grasslands. Grazing cattle helps protect the landscape; grass is also better for cow’s digestive systems than feed made of soy or corn, resulting in fewer methane emissions.
(One kg of beef produces 15-25kg of greenhouse gas emissions, around 10 times the emissions of chicken).
Cooking fat and other foods
When it comes to cooking fat, the advice is to opt for more olive oil and rape oil, which are best from both an environmental and a health perspective. Palm oil, on the other hand, has the greatest impact on the environment; much of the land used for palm oil cultivation used to be rainforest.
Amongst the other foods included in the guidelines, the National Food Administration is recommending eating fish and shellfish two to three times a week – but advises choosing fish from stable stocks, and fish bears the MSC or Krav labels to show it has been fished or farmed sustainably. It also encourages trying new kinds of fish, to reduce the demand on high demand species.