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Eneroth, Hanna Maria Linnéa, 2023. Climate impact of ultra-processed foods in the Swedish diet. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Department of Molecular Sciences



The climate impact associated with food consumption is large. The size of the impact depend on the type of food and how it is produced. Food systems are currently changing and urbanization and increased affluence of consumers have led to an overall increase in food consumption and a rise in consumption of processed foods globally.

In this thesis, the climate impact of the Swedish diet was analysed, based on type of food and degree of processing. The NOVA framework was used to classify food groups into unprocessed or minimally processed foods, culinary ingredients, processed foods or ultra-processed foods (UPF). National statistics on food consumption was combined with a dataset with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with foods, based on life-cycle assessment of foods on the Swedish market. For a comparison of Swedish data to other settings, a literature search was done to capture studies on UPF and environmental impacts.

Our analysis show that the largest contribution of GHG emissions from the Swedish diet comes from foods categorised as unprocessed or minimally processed. The food groups that contributed most to climate impact were ‘Meat&Eggs’ and ‘Dairy’ in unprocessed or minimally processed foods and ‘Meat&Eggs’ and ‘Discretionary foods ’ in UPF.

A literature search rendered six papers relating climate impact to the degree of food processing based on the NOVA classification. In one paper, there was a higher climate impact of a diet higher in UPF than a diet higher in less processed foods, while two other papers found no association of degree of processing and climate impact of the diet. Also in the food-based analyses, results were inconsistent on the role of UPF on climate impact. The study results reflect the climate impact associated with the dietary pattern of the studied populations. Some of the differences between studies may also be due to methodology, as the authors used different ways to control for energy intake.

Our conclusion is that the least processed foods contribute more to the climate impact of the Swedish diet than the foods categorised as UPF. The NOVA classification is not well aligned with a food science view of what food processing is and not suitable for analysis of climate impact of diets. More information on the energy use in different food processing steps is crucial for investigating and reducing the climate impact of food processing.

Main title:Climate impact of ultra-processed foods in the Swedish diet
Authors:Eneroth, Hanna Maria Linnéa
Supervisor:Röös, Elin
Examiner:Tidåker, Pernilla
Series:Molecular Sciences
Volume/Sequential designation:2023:18
Year of Publication:2023
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:NM028 Sustainable Food Systems - Master's Programme, 120.0hp
Supervising department:(NL, NJ) > Department of Molecular Sciences
Keywords:climate impact, culinary ingredients, diet, food consumption, food processing, greenhouse gas emissions, minimally processed foods, NOVA, ultra-processed foods
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Deposited On:07 Jul 2023 07:52
Metadata Last Modified:08 Jul 2023 01:02

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