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Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014 Apr 1. [Epub ahead of print]

Research developments in methods to reduce the carbon footprint of the food system: a review.

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  • 1a College of Light Industry & Food Sciences , South China University of Technology , Guangzhou , 510641 , PR China.


Abstract Global warming is a worldwide issue with its evident impact across a wide range of systems and sectors. It is caused by a number of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions, in which food system has made up of a large part. Recently, reduction of GHG emissions has become an urgent issue to be resolved in the food system. Many governments and organizations are making great endeavors to alleviate the adverse effect of this phenomenon. In this review, methods to reduce the carbon footprint within the life cycle of a food system are presented from the technical, consumption behavior, and environmental policies perspectives. The whole food system including raw material acquisition, processing, packaging, preservation, transportation, consumption and disposal are covered. Improving management techniques, and adopting advanced technology and equipment are critical for every stages of a food system. Rational site selection is important to alleviate the influence of land use change. In addition, environmental choices of packaging stage, reduction in refrigeration dependence, and correct waste treatment are essential to reduce the total carbon footprint of the production. However, only technical methods cannot radically reverse the trend of climate change, as consumption behaviors present a great deal of influence over climate change. Appropriate purchase patterns and substitution within food product categories by low carbon products can reduce GHG emissions. Development of methods to calculate the carbon footprint of every kind of food and its processing technology enable people to make environmental choice. Policy can shape and cultivate the new code of consumption and influence the direction of emerging technology and science. From political perspectives, government intervention and carbon offset are common tools, especially for carbon tax and a real or implicit price of carbon. Finally, by mitigating the methodologies described above, the rate and magnitude of climate changes can be also reduced to some extent.


Carbon footprint; consumption behavior; environmental policies; food system; greenhouse gases emission; life cycle assessment

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