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

A store clerk shows plant based products at a supermarket chain in Brussels, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020.
A store clerk shows plant based products at a supermarket chain in Brussels, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. Copyright Francisco Seco/Copyright 2020 The AP.All rights reserved
Copyright Francisco Seco/Copyright 2020 The AP.All rights reserved
By Gregoire Lory
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Businesses can buy so-called carbon credits to balance out their own emissions.

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

In a report published on Thursday, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) says that small 'greenwashing' labels are becoming increasingly common on the shelves of supermarkets, as more and more brands are discreetly stating that the product on sale is climate-neutral and therefore good for the planet. 

"For us, this is absolutely greenwashing," Emma Calvert, a senior food policy officer at BEUC, told Euronews.

"Having a 100% CO2 neutral on a product is scientifically inaccurate and misleading to consumers. There's no way for consumers in the supermarket to verify that this is using carbon sequestration projects to justify this claim."

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

As a result, it is calling for a ban on these types of labels.

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

"Companies will pay for a carbon credit to balance out their own carbon emissions. The problem with this is that, it's a kind of a burn now, pay later approach," she explained. 

"So, they are emitting carbon right now and then the pledges are for tree planting projects mostly in the future."

This compensation can therefore take years to really be effective and is not guaranteed. Fires or extreme weather events could also cause these compensatory trees to disappear.

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