14.06.2021 Environment

Environmental harm from junk food

The CSIRO estimates that junk food is one of the highest contributors to food related greenhouse gas emissions.

Cutting over consumption of kilojoules and eating wholefoods at levels recommended in the National Dietary Guidelines could cut the greenhouse gas contribution of the average diet by 25%. That’s a finding underpinning Australia’s largest diet survey, the Healthy Diet Score, carried out by the CSIRO.

While we’ve long been encouraged to eat green for a healthy lifestyle, this year’s survey hopes to examine the environmental impact of the nation’s diet.

It will look at the role food consumption contributes to our environmental footprint, as well as providing participants with a score indicating the nutritional quality of their eating habits.

Improving the national diet can achieve both health benefits and environmental benefits, such as minimising harmful greenhouse gases via reducing processing, packaging and transport requirements.

People across Australia are being asked to participate in the online survey again this year. Last year more than 70,000 people took part providing researchers with a detailed picture of the country’s eating habits.

The survey evaluates diet based on food variety, frequency and quantity of the essential food groups, as well as other attributes to calculate greenhouse gas emissions related to food consumption. 

 This is the first year that the Healthy Diet Score will use survey data to measure the broader environmental impact of poor eating and the findings will be released later this year. It will also track special diets such as vegetarian and gluten free for the first time, offering tailored advice for people who struggle to meet the Dietary Guidelines.

Professor Manny Noakes, CSIRO Research Director for Nutrition and Health and the co-author of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, said the impact of poor eating habits reaches further than just an individual’s waistline.

“Obesity and poor nutrition habits negatively affects the broader community,” said Professor Noakes. 

 “This year’s Healthy Diet Score will help us better qualify the environmental footprint from individuals eating habits. 

 The new survey will provide researchers with an updated snapshot based on current eating habits and revised environmental modelling data.”

In addition to overeating kilojoules, the CSIRO estimates that junk food is one of the highest contributors to food related greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for up to 27% of the 14.5kgs of diet-related greenhouse gas emissions produced by the average Australian each day.

Last year the country’s diet quality was given a rating of 61/100 using the scientifically validated survey which assesses people’s diet quality against the Australian Dietary Guidelines. Our underwhelming performance was driven by our addiction to junk food. 

The 2015 survey found that junk food intake was three times higher than the recommended daily limit.

The CSIRO Healthy Diet Score is a free 10 minute online assessment, which evaluates diet quality and identifies areas of improvement and gives your diet a score out of 100.

“The online assessment provides Australians with a simple and trusted way of self assessing the quality of their diet and how they compare to others of the same age, gender, generation, profession, as well as people from the same state and across the country,” said Professor Noakes.

“The assessment will also allow us to better quantify the impact of how much and what we eat on our environment. 

 We would encourage people to take the test regularly to ensure they are improving their eating behaviour and overall health and wellbeing.”

For more information or to take the free Healthy Diet Score please visit www.csirodietscore.com