A new standard for measuring embodied greenhouse gases in products and services could help food manufacturers reduce their carbon footprint, according to Campden Chorleywood Food Research Association (CCFRA).
CCFRA, the largest membership-based food and drink research centre in the world, is participating in the development and testing of the new standard in response to growing concerns about carbon emissions.
Many food and drink manufacturers and packagers today are developing and adapting their processes to reduce their carbon footprint through minimizing their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Some of the efforts undertaken by firms include reducing the weight of products, installing more efficient machinery and cutting lorry movements.
CCFRA, based at Chipping Norton in Gloucestershire, UK, said the new Publicly Available Standard (PAS) will be produced by the British Standards Institute, working with the UK-based Carbon Trust and DEFRA, the UK government's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. DEFRA is funding the research.
Once a draft document has been produced, CCFRA will assess the standard through four manufacturing case studies. These will include a chilled ready meal, a bread product, a cheese product and a fresh juice.
Project partner ADAS, an environmental consultancy group, will focus on pre-farm gate activities.
CCFRA will provide DEFRA with information on any limitations to the proposed standard, in an effort to help improve it.
The aim of the project is to provide information to refine and finalise BSI PAS 2050 - the current specification for the measurement of the embodied greenhouse gas emissions in products and services - and provide DEFRA with interim indicators of the relative merits of different potential food supply systems.
UK news reports have recently been full of examples of UK companies adopting measures to reduce their carbon emissions. For instance, leading brewers are switching to lighter bottles - Scottish and Newcastle has introduced a lighter bottle for its Strongbow and Strongbow Sirrus cider, reducing the weight by 14 per cent.
The UK government-funded Waste and Resources Action Programme works with industry to promote recycling and more efficient use of packaging materials. Its GlassRite programme is backing a move towards lightweight glass packaging across the drinks industry.
The project has seen industry buy-in as consumers become increasingly aware of companies' impact on the environment, and governments come under pressure to meet targets for reduced CO2 output.
The food and drink industry in the UK accounts for 10 per cent of all industrial and commercial waste - or 6.5 million tonnes, according to the government, and it says reductions can be made particularly in packaging.
The industry group Food and Drink Federation pledged in October last year that its members would cut packing materials by 340,000 tonnes by 2010, from the 4.6m tonnes used in 2005, a reduction of 13 per cent.