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Sustainability assessment from The Carbon Trust of new UK Eatwell Guide

The UK’s official dietary guidelines were updated in March 2016. The Carbon Trust has undertaken a useful analysis of the environmental implications of the new plate. FCRN member John Kazer (Footprint Certification Manager at The Carbon Trust) provides the following summary of the analysis here:

“The Carbon Trust was commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) to help them better understand the environmental impacts of new Eatwell Guide being created. They wished to obtain wide-ranging but well-founded analysis covering complex sets of ingredients. It was considered useful to be able to review the results in light of the current typical UK diet. We collated data providing the impact of 93% - 97% of the foods (by weight), considering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water consumption and land requirement. Comparisons were simplified by an innovative method for representing sustainable environmental resource use in terms of guideline daily amounts (GDA). This simplified analysis, highlights overall impact, which is similar to how nutritional content is defined with dietary reference values.  The diets compared are each presented as annual per capita consumption.  Drinks other than the nutritionally significant fruit juices and milk are not included.

The Eatwell Guide shows an appreciably lower environmental impact than the current UK diet, according to the Carbon Trust analysis. We also note that parallel improvements in production efficiency and waste reduction will help too.  A number of differences contribute to the reduction, such as increasing potatoes, fish, wholemeal & white bread, vegetables and fruit whilst reducing amounts of dairy, meat, rice, pasta, pizza and sweet foods.” 

Note that the analysis does not compare the environmental impacts of adhering to the new Eatwell guidelines with those of adhering to the old one – i.e. it does not assess how far the new guidelines represent an environmental improvement on the old.


The UK’s national food guide has been updated in light of recent recommendations made by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) in their report on Carbohydrates and Health published in July 2015.

The Eatwell Guide has replaced the eatwell plate and continues to define the government’s advice on a healthy balanced diet. The Eatwell Guide is a visual representation of how different foods and drinks can contribute towards a healthy balanced diet. The Eatwell Guide is based on the 5 food groups and shows how much of what you eat should come from each food group. Public Health England encourages organisations and individuals to use the Eatwell Guide to make sure everyone receives consistent messages about the balance of foods in a healthy diet. This publication provides guidance on using the Eatwell Guide in promotional materials. The Carbon Trust sustainability assessment indicated that the Eatwell Guide shows an appreciably lower environmental impact than the current UK diet.

Read about the new Eatwell guide here and see the full Carbon Brief analysis here.

You will find further coverage in Foodnavigator here and in this interesting blog-post from Medact on sustainability considerations in the new guide.

 Read more dietary guidelines, food and agriculture policy, sustainable healthy diets.

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