Presentation by Dr Ulrike Eberle at the Bitkom FoodTech#7 roundtable

On 11 March 2024, Bitkom held its Food Tech Roundtable #7 in Berlin. This time it was organised together with the “Together for Carbon Labelling – TCL” initiative. The roundtable focused on the climate labelling of food and the database required for this. In her presentation, Dr Ulrike Eberle from corsus explained how climate and environmental labelling of food can succeed and how urgently a life cycle assessment database for food is needed in Germany.

In her presentation, Ulrike Eberle made it clear that labelling the environmental impact of food is already possible today. However, the life cycle assessment expert emphasised that this requires standardised rules that ensure, among other things, that labelling does not distort competition. She also said that a label should not only focus on climate, but should also include other environmental impacts relevant to food, such as the effects of water consumption or effects on biodiversity. The basis for environmental labelling is a life cycle assessment database for the environmental impact of food, which is made available free of charge. Such a database does not currently exist for Germany. However, the Agribalyse database from France could be used for a transitional period. Agribalyse is currently the only complete, freely available life cycle assessment database for food in Europe.

In the view of the corsus Managing Director, it is essential that a database modelled on Agribalyse is set up quickly in Germany. The necessary rules should be based on Agribalyse in order to achieve harmonisation across Europe. The database could also be used to monitor the environmental impact of food in Germany or to quantify the raw materials purchased in Scope 3 of a corporate carbon footprint. It can therefore also support mandatory sustainability reporting. Ulrike Eberle also made it clear that an environmental database for food also necessarily contains so-called background data sets, which are required for almost all processes. These are, for example, data records on energy provision, transport or disposal. These data records are of course not only relevant for an environmental label for food, but also for other sectors.

Christian Scheffler, Vice President FSQA, Sustainability & Packaging at HelloFresh, also emphasised the need for a life cycle assessment database for food. This is also the reason why the company is involved in the TCL initiative. In his presentation, Dr Christian Hennig, entrepreneur, pointed out how important it is to look at the sources of greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture and, in particular, to focus on fossil fuels.

In the panel discussion that followed, there was unanimous agreement that a database is urgently needed. Ulrich Gromke from the Federal Environment Agency, one of the panellists, brought the good news that the Federal Environment Agency will soon be increasing its staff for the Probas database and that the aim is to provide valid background data sets in particular. Dr Ulrike Eberle welcomed the announcement and emphasised that it was also necessary to ensure harmonisation of the rules in order to guarantee compatibility across Europe. She mentioned that the ECOFOODCHOICE project funded by the EU’s LIFE programme, in which corsus is involved, aims to find out how data from agricultural analysis can be transferred to other European countries and offered to involve the Federal Environment Agency in this process.

Many research projects in Germany and Europe are currently working on a methodological concept for the environmental labelling of food. corsus is involved in some of these projects, such as the EEKLIM project at the University of Göttingen and a European project with partners in France, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany. In EEKLIM, corsus is focusing on developing a methodological concept for food labelling. The European ECOFOODCHOICE project, which started in November 2023, is looking at how the French Agribalyse database can be transferred to other European countries, such as Germany.

food products on a shelve
© Copyright - corsus 2023