European consumer NGO calls for ban on ‘greenwashing’ of food and drink products

Food and drink producers are greenwashing their products classifying them as CO2 neutral and must be banned, according to one of Europe’s leading consumer NGOs.

In a report on Thursday, the European Consumers’ Bureau (BEUC) says small ‘greenwashing’ labels are becoming more common on supermarket shelves, as more brands quietly state that the product on sale is climate neutral and therefore good for the planet.

“For us, this is absolutely greenwashing,” Emma Calvert, head of food policy at BEUC, told Euronews.

“Having a 100% CO2 neutral product on a product is scientifically inaccurate and misleading to consumers. There is no way for supermarket consumers to verify that it uses carbon sequestration projects to substantiate this claim.”

For BEUC, these labels are a misleading indication that has a marketing value on which companies play. It indicates that more than half of European consumers believe that environmental issues influence their food choices.

Consequently, he asks for the prohibition of this type of labels.

The NGO also claims that the justification used by food companies to claim that the products are CO2 neutral, is not valid. Calvert said these companies use carbon offsetting.

“Companies will pay for a carbon credit to balance their own carbon emissions. The problem with that is that it’s kind of burn now, pay later,” she explained.

“So they’re emitting carbon right now and then the pledges are for tree planting projects mostly in the future.”

This compensation can therefore take years to be truly effective and is not guaranteed. Fires or extreme weather events could also lead to the disappearance of these compensating trees.

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