Study Suggests Clear Labelling for Ultra-Processed Food


Experts are calling for clear labelling of ultra-processed foods, as some of these products can be mistakenly perceived as healthy due to their categorisation in the “green” section of the traffic light system. This is particularly true for meat-alternative products, according to a team from University College London. Ultra-processed foods, which often contain more than five ingredients and include items such as cakes, biscuits and yoghurts, have been associated with obesity and heart disease. Current labels indicate whether a food is high in fat, salt and sugar, but do not reveal the level of processing.

A study of nearly 3,000 popular UK food and drink items found that 55% were ultra-processed and labelled as red, meaning they contained significantly more fat, sugar, salt and calories per 100g than minimally or unprocessed foods. However, some ultra-processed foods were labelled green and some minimally processed foods, such as nuts and seeds, were labelled red.

Dr Adrian Brown, a senior research fellow and weight-management specialist at UCL, noted that there is currently insufficient research into the impact of ultra-processed foods on general health. His team is now conducting a trial to compare the health outcomes of an ultra-processed food diet with a minimally processed one. The trial aims to provide guidance to consumers about these types of foods.

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