Ultra-Processed Food Has Significant Environmental Implications

Ultra-Processed Food Has Significant Environmental Implications

Ultra-processed food has significant environmental implications for Brazil, including an increased national water footprint.

Ultra-Processed Food Consumption Has Ecological Implications in Brazil

A new study about ultra-processed food in Brazil found that, in addition to health consequences from increased consumption of foods like sausages, prepared meals, margarine, sweets and soft drinks, etc., there are significant environmental implications, including increased greenhouse gas emissions and a larger water footprint.

The study found that as household budgets have increased, the proportion of whole, unprocessed foods in Brazilian household diets has decreased and the amount of processed and ultra-processed foods has increased. Along with that, there was a rise in environmental consequences - increased greenhouse gas emission, increased national water footprint related to diet and increased ecological footprint (land use, labor resources, etc.) The increasing environmental impact of ultra-processed foods was driven by an increase in consumption of ultra-processed meat, which readers of this site know comes with a high water footprint.

The study found that, for every 1,000 calories consumed, there was a 21 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions, a 22 percent increase to the nation’s water footprint and 17 percent increase to its ecological footprint.

According to Dr Ximena Schmidt, study co-author and Global Challenges Research Fellow at the Centre for Sustainable Energy Use, Brunel University London, “This study shows for the first time how increasing the consumption of ultra-processed foods has produced more greenhouse gas emissions and used more water and land, even in developing countries like Brazil. We need to help people change their diets to protect the environment and live healthy lives. We need to finally acknowledge that impacts to the environment and health have to be tackled together”

[Science Daily]