Environmental sustainability assessment of ready-made baby foods: Meals, menus and diets

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Abstract

Although there is a growing body of literature on the environmental impacts of food, virtually none of the studies has addressed baby foods. Therefore, this work explored the life cycle environmental impacts of different ready-made baby foods, both at the level of individual meals and their combinations within a weekly menu. Twelve different meals were considered, based on baby food products available on the UK market, spanning breakfast, lunch and dessert. Menus following four different diets – omnivorous, vegetarian, pescatarian and dairy-free – were also evaluated. The results showed that, on average, lunch meals had the highest impacts and desserts the lowest. Breakfast has either intermediate (wet porridge) or low (dry porridge) impacts. Among the lunch meals, spaghetti Bolognese and salmon risotto had the highest impacts and among the desserts, strawberry, raspberry and banana as well as apple, pear and banana purees had the lowest. The key hotspots across the meals were raw materials and packaging. Meals with more meat and cream were found to have higher impacts. Manufacturing also played a significant role for global warming potential as well as depletion of fossil resources and the ozone layer due to the fossil fuels used in the process. When the impacts were analysed per mass of baby food consumed weekly, the dairy-free diet had higher impacts than the other three, but the difference among them was relatively small. The trends changed when nutritional value was taken into account, with the dairy-free diet exhibiting considerably higher impacts per unit of energy content. In that case, the pescatarian diet became the best option for most impacts. There was little difference between the omnivore and vegetarian diets. It is expected that these results will be of interest to baby food manufacturers and consumers, helping them to make more informed manufacturing and purchasing decisions.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date24 Jun 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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