The Food Chain Analysis Network (FCAN) is an OECD expert group specialised in food systems analysis. OECD member states nominate experts, who then share insights, data, and best practices on topical food systems issues. In this way, the FCAN informs the work of the OECD Secretariat, while also enabling peer learning among OECD member states. In recent years, the FCAN has worked on food waste, competition issues, food insecurity, and encouraging healthier food choices through simplified nutritional food labels.
Measuring and communicating environmental impacts of food products
In 2023-2024, the FCAN is studying initiatives to measure and communicate the environmental impacts of food products. Such initiatives are proliferating rapidly. Some initiatives focus on communicating one aspect (e.g. carbon footprints), while others cover multiple environmental impacts. Some focus on communication to consumers (e.g. through labels), while others focus on transmitting information between supply chain actors. There is also growing interest in farm-level tools to estimate environmental impacts, as well as in life-cycle assessment (LCA) databases for food products. These initiatives all differ from earlier sustainability initiatives in food systems as they focus on quantified environmental impacts, rather than on assessing conformity with requirements around practices. These new initiatives raise important policy questions. For example, could the proliferation of initiatives lead to confusion among consumers, and unnecessary transaction costs and trade frictions? What are the different measurement methodologies used, and how can we assess their reliability? How can food systems stakeholders, consumers, and scientists be involved?
Building on the lessons learned in earlier FCAN work on simplified nutritional food labels, the FCAN is studying these questions in 2023-2024. In June 2023, experts gathered in Paris for a first meeting, which discussed the range of initiatives emerging in OECD countries, and identified key questions around communication, measurement, and governance.