Brits unable to identify ultra-processed foods

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Almost half of British claim they wouldn't be able to identify ultra-processed foods. Image: Getty, LauriPatterson
Almost half of British claim they wouldn't be able to identify ultra-processed foods. Image: Getty, LauriPatterson
Almost half of Brits (45%) say they wouldn’t be able to identify an ultra-processed food or beverage, or know the difference between them and minimally processed foods, according to new research consultancy Savanta ComRes,

In a survey of 2002 UK shoppers, more than 45% of respondents said they had eaten ultra-processed foods twice a day – including chicken nuggets, burgers, frozen meals and crisps.

The study also found that 21% believed orange juice was ultra-processed, with a further 19% admitted they had avoided buying orange juice because of the misconception that it was ultra-processed.

Misunderstandings around UPFs

Commenting on the survey, nutritionist and health writer Dr Emma Derbyshire said: ‘Some of the misunderstandings around ultra-processed foods are resulting in consumers avoiding certain products which contain healthy benefits.

“Products like 100% orange juice are essential in a balanced diet and provide essential vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin C and potassium, needed to help meet an individual’s nutrient needs.”

Ultra-processed foods were identified as one of five key challenges facing the food and drink industry. In particular, the group highlighted the lack of universally agreed or official definition for ultra-processed foods and that there are multiple models for categorising them.

Nova classification

As it stands, the most concrete definition stems from the Nova classification system, which categorises all food products into one of four ‘groups’ – 1. ‘Unprocessed and minimally processed’, 2. ‘Processed culinary ingredients’, 3. ‘Processed’, and 4. ‘Ultra-processed’.

Outside of the media scrutiny around the subject and its influence on consumer perceptions and desires, concerns were also raised that the increased focus on the level of processing of products and ingredients may be at the detriment of a need to remain focussed on the nutritional value of products.

Meanwhile, marketing of food and drink high in fat, salt and sugar needs to be strictly regulated​ by the government to prevent businesses from exploiting the system to advertise unhealthy foods, claimed a panel of health and nutrition experts.

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