Life Cycle Assessment of Southeast Asian Diets

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Hnin Nandar Khine
Romanee Thongdara
Kritsanat Surakit
Kaewta Muangasame
Nawatch Surinkul
Trakarn Prapaspongsa


Population growth has increased demand for food globally. Food production has negative impacts on the environment. Previous research has shown that dietary choices significantly influenced environmental impacts. Studies on the environmental impacts of Southeast Asian diets are still limited and needed. The objectives of this study are to assess and compare the life cycle environmental impacts of diets in 9 Southeast Asian countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam), to identify the dietary choices causing the environmental impacts and to provide recommendations on environmental impact reduction. The functional unit of this assessment is food consumption in kilograms per capita per year. The assessment scope is from cradle to gate. Foreground data were obtained from Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) food balance sheets with the representative year as of 2018 and International Coffee Organization (ICO). Background data were obtained from ecoinvent and Agri-footprint databases. Four environmental impact categories (human health damage, ecosystem damage, resource scarcity, and global warming potential) were assessed using the ReCiPe 2016 method (v1.04). Healthy diet scenarios with the diet and energy intake adjustments to achieve the recommended standard healthy diets were also analyzed. The dietary choices with higher amount and more high-impact food groups would cause higher environmental impacts. Vietnam, Myanmar, and Laos had higher impacts for all impact categories, while Timor-Leste had the lowest impacts among Southeast Asian countries. Meats/meat products and cereals were significant contributors to all impact categories, followed by fish and seafood. Based on the healthy diet scenario analysis, overall reduction and meats & cereals reduction were recommended for environmental impact reduction because meats, fish and seafood, cereals were the major contributors to all impacts categories in Southeast Asia. As meats/meat products lead as a critical food group causing environmental impacts, it is recommended that governments should take specific measures to reduce the consumption of animals and animal products and to support meat substitutes (e.g., tofu, tempeh, beans, etc.).

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