Food and drink products will be able to use a voluntary EU labelling scheme that shows consumers which are the most "eco-friendly", under plans announced by the European Commission.

The European Commission said it plans to extend its "Eco-label" programme to cover more sectors, including the food and beverage industry, in a bid to encourage greener production and consumption.

The proposal forms part of a wider package unveiled yesterday (16 July) and which also includes plans to encourage local government authorities to spend more public money on environmentally-friendly products.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "In terms of our impact on the planet we are living far beyond our means. Our actions as consumers and producers worldwide are major forces behind climate change and the destruction of nature.

"The time has come for us to change the type of products we buy and transform our methods of production. This is why the European Commission is putting forward proposals to encourage a switch to energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly products and production."

The Eco-label was launched in 1992 to encourage the development of more environmentally-friendly products, although, at its inception, the label was not used for food products.

In order to be able to use the label, manufacturers must meet EU criteria on the environmental impact of their products. The criteria are specific to a product group drawn up by the EU but once met a manufacturer can use the label across the member states.