Food eco-scores with the wrong methodology can do more harm than good
A new study from Oxford Martin University is claiming that their newly developed system of eco scoring food is “the first step towards enabling consumers, retailers, and policymakers to make informed decisions on the environmental impacts of food and drink products”. But BMPA, along with others are concerned that there are large holes in the data and methodology. In trying to bolt together a nutrition score and an eco-score to come up with one number, the resulting list of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ foods could steer consumers away from healthy, whole foods towards less healthy, highly processed foods. This is illustrated by the fact that fizzy drinks, chips and onion rings score more favourably than cheese, meat and nuts.
AHDB has highlighted some limitations which show this new study is by no means comprehensive and is not yet fit for purpose. There are large factors that simply haven’t been included in the calculations, for example the origin and method of production of ingredients is not accounted for. Brazilian beef has a very different eco-profile to British beef. Eco labelling to drive consumer behaviour must not have fatal flaws built in which could inadvertently steer people into less healthy choices that won’t necessarily benefit the planet.