Philosopher ‘naive’ over Daily Mail processed food comment: FDF

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

The FDF has countered criticism, arguing that food processing has many benefits
The FDF has countered criticism, arguing that food processing has many benefits

Related tags: Nutrition, Food

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has accused a philosopher of being “naive” after he stated that modern food processing was a danger to health. 

The organisation, which represents UK food and drink manufacturers, was responding to Garrath Williams, a senior lecturer in philosophy at Lancaster University, who was reported in the Daily Mail​ yesterday (June 2) of accusing large corporations of reducing raw ingredients to “pulps and powders and concentrates and extracts”.

“These corporations are armed with factories and laboratories, with brands and trademarks and marketing departments,”​ said Williams.

“New technologies pound and process and bleach and coat, change liquids into pastes or solids, extract the last scraps from animal carcasses, and ‘fortify’ with vitamins lost in earlier stages of processing.”

Regulatory changes

Williams told that he recognised convenience foods were an important part of modern life, but said most consumers didn’t appreciate how much they tended to differ from foods prepared at home.

“I’d like to see regulatory changes to improve the market chances of smaller manufacturers working with fresh ingredients,” ​he said.

“At the moment, our food systems offer too many advantages to large companies producing ultra-processed foods.”

However, Tim Rycroft, corporate affairs director at the FDF, dismissed Williams’ view as “naive”​ and claimed that innovation had been a benefit and a “major success story”​.

“Prepared and packaged foods and drinks play an essential role in helping people towards their recommended intake of key nutrients, especially those people who are time-poor or on a tight budget.

Professional philosopher

“Unlike the author of this piece, I’m not a professional philosopher.

“I think, however, that we would both agree that the population faces a number of dietary challenges.

​Many people today regularly consume more calories than they need. The poor health outcomes from this are exacerbated by people eating too little fruit, vegetables and fibre, and too much saturated fat, sugars and salt.”

However, Rycroft agreed that there was a lot of confusion around information on nutrition, making it harder for the public to know what they should be eating.

But he said the “demonising”​ of nutrients in food and drink only added to the confusion.

Some successful food processing innovation: FDF

  • New technologies and processes such as freezing, chilling, pasteurisation and canning have made a huge difference to food safety, availability and nutrient content and are down to the ingenuity of food and drink professionals over the years.
  • The fat content of margarines and spreads has been improved over time to contribute key vitamins and more of the essential fatty acids such as omega-3, while helping people lower their intake of saturated fats.
  • The development and use of low calorie sweeteners has helped companies to lower calories in carbonated beverages, dairy desserts and yogurt, confectionery and table-top sweeteners.
  • Responding to growing demand, we have seen a rise in alternative proteins, from Quorn’s mycoprotein to more outlandish options such as edible insects and lab-grown synthetic meat.
  • The creation of hollow salt and sugar crystals is helping companies to reformulate to lower these nutrients in their products while maintaining taste and texture.
  • Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is helping producers to extend the shelf-life of fresh food products by altering the composition of air to remove all or most of the oxygen so that spoilage is markedly reduced. 

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