Other Foods & Drinks

Estimating the environmental impacts of 57,000 ‘foods’


Many thanks to Nick from Switzerland for this week’s paper. I’m not sure if ‘thanks’ is the right word, as this is up there with one of the worst papers that I’ve ever had to spend a week reviewing.

The paper was called "Estimating the environmental impacts of 57,000 food products" and it was written by Clark et al (Ref 1). I spotted a vegan in the author list (Marco Springmann) and there may be others.

As the title suggests, the aim of this study was to estimate the environmental impact of 57,000 food products. First, there are not 57,000 foods. There may be 57,000 varieties of processed food items, but the basic foods are meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. There are a number of different types of each of these, but real foods will number a few hundred at most, not 57,000.

The rationale for the study was given as “While previous analyses compared the impacts of food commodities such as fruits, wheat, and beef, most food products contain numerous ingredients.” This confirmed that the study looked at mostly processed foods and not what people should be eating – real food.

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