'Ultra-processed' products now half of all UK family food purchases

Exclusive: health experts advise augmenting recognition of industrially-made food will lead to disastrous effects such as plumpness and bad health

Fri 2 Feb 2018

Last mutated on Fri 2 Feb 2018

Froot Loops breakfast cereal is some-more than 50% sugarine – and no fruit.
Photograph: Alamy

Half of all a food bought by families in a UK is now “ultra-processed”, done in a bureau with industrial mixture and additives invented by food technologists and temperament small similarity to a fruit, vegetables, beef or fish used to prepare a uninformed dish during home.

Research by tellurian nourishment experts reveals a scale of a food evolution, from farm-fresh to factory-manufactured. “Real food” has been transposed by tainted snacks and honeyed cereals, industrially-made bread and desserts, ready-meals and reconstituted meats alongside honeyed soothing drinks.

The study of 19 European countries is published this month in a special emanate of a biography Public Health Nutrition. It shows that UK families buy some-more ultra-processed food than any others in Europe, amounting to 50.7% of a diet. Germany comes second, on 46.2% and afterwards Ireland on 45.9%. While a total are not directly comparable, extracted from inhabitant surveys carried out differently and from opposite years, a trend is clear.

ultra-processed food map

The UK information they analysed came from a Living Costs and Food Survey 2008, a latest available. They categorised dishes into 4 groups. More than a entertain of food (28.6%) was unprocessed or minimally so, 10.4% was processed cooking mixture such as unfeeling oil and 10.2% was usually processed, such as cheese or marinated meat. Ultra-processed food amounts to some-more than all a other groups combined.

Professor Carlos Monteiro from a University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, who led a investigate team, told a Guardian of his low regard about a links between ultra-processed food with plumpness and bad health.

Ultra-processed dishes might demeanour appealing and are designed with honeyed or tainted tastes that make us wish more. But there is zero healthful about them, Monteiro said.

“Take breakfast cereals. If we take Froot Loops, for instance, some-more than 50% is sugar,” he told a Guardian. “[But] there is no fruit …

“Ultra-processed dishes are radically new creations of a food attention with really low cost mixture in a really appealing product.”

Separate information performed by a Guardian from Euromonitor reveals a biggest offered brands of ultra-processed dishes in a UK.

Quick guide

Processed foods

Mr Kipling Angel slices

Batchelors Super Noodles

McVitie’s digestive biscuits

Kelloggs Rice Krispies

Walkers cheese and onion crisps

Cadbury’s Crunchie

Haribo sweets

Sugar Listed first, so it is a biggest ingredient. Each cut contains 13.2g of sugar, that is 15% of an adult’s endorsed daily intake

Vegetable oils (rapeseed, palm) Rapeseed oil is healthy, though palm oil is a rarely jam-packed fat, widely used in industrially-produced dishes since of a really low cost

Wheat flour (with total calcium, iron, niacin, thiamin) Added vitamins though this is finely milled white flour


Glucose syrup Another form of sugar, done from maize in a USA, where it is called corn syrup, or from potatoes and wheat

Humectant (vegetable glycerine) Reduces dampness loss

Dextrose Another form of sugar

Dried egg white

Whey powder (milk) Gives texture

Vegetable fat (palm) Cheap form of jam-packed fat

Maize starch Often used as an anti-caking representative in sugars

Skimmed divert powder

Raising agents (disodium diphosphate, sodium bicarbonate)

Emulsifiers (mono- and diglycerides of greasy acids, sorbitan monostearate, polyglycerol esters of greasy acids, soya lecithin, polysorbate 60) Emulsifiers are additives used to brace processed foods

Tapioca starch Thickening representative subsequent from cassava roots


Stabiliser (xanthan gum) Made from fermented sugars. Prevents mixture from separating

Preservative (potassium sorbate)

Milk protein Can be used in industrially-made consume cakes to reinstate egg, giving volume, agility and texture


Gelling representative (sodium alginate) This is E401, extracted from brownish-red seaweed and used as a stabiliser in cream

Colours (titanium dioxide, cochineal, lutein) Titanium dioxide is an addition used in paint though also massively in food to give a white colour. Cochineal is a red caricature subsequent from insects. Lutein is yellow caricature extracted from marigolds

Acid (acetic acid) A leavening partial in baked products when total with baking soda

Mr Kipling, done by Premier Foods, tops a check for cakes. They also possess Batchelors, that lead on dusty prepared meals, such as Super Noodles and soups in a cup. McVitie’s are a lead sellers of honeyed biscuits. Kellogg’s dominates cold breakfast cereals.

Cadbury’s chocolate, Wrigley’s resin and Haribo candy all tip their categories in confectionery. Lay’s, from Pepsico, are a biggest offered tainted and delectable snacks.

These dishes are done from inexpensive mixture and constructed on a outrageous scale, Moneteiro said. Ultra-processed cheese is done of divert powder and additives, for example. Some present noodles are not noodles, he said.

“If we have present noodles that are radically formed on oils and starch and additives, we are not eating genuine noodles. The same goes for duck nuggets – when we get these ultra-processed duck nuggets we are not removing genuine chicken,” he said.

There are dual problems with all this, he said. People are blank out not usually on vitamins and minerals though also bioactive compounds found in healthy dishes such as phytoestrogens and fibre.

Mr Kipling, done by Premier Foods, is a many renouned ultra-processed cake code in a UK. Photograph: Angela Nicholson/Future Publ/REX

“And afterwards we get salt and starch and sugarine and fat and all these additives. We are immoderate each day an volume of new substances that are these flavours and colours and emulsifiers and we don’t have any thought as to what will be a problem of these items,” he said.

Regulations concerning a use of additives and pepper date mostly from a past century and were focused on either or not they caused cancer, he said. Other accumulative effects of eating these industrially-made substances are not nonetheless known.

“The honest answer is we don’t know what is going on,” pronounced Monteiro.

Jean-Claude Moubarac, highbrow of nourishment from a University of Montreal in Canada, who works with Monteiro, pronounced they had found that ultra-processed dishes “have really low nutritive peculiarity in terms of a volume of giveaway sugars they enclose and sodium [salt] and jam-packed fat and they tend to be most revoke in proteins, minerals and vitamins”. They are also high in calories.

Their investigate shows that a proverb steady constantly by a food attention and adopted by politicians – that “there is no such thing as bad food, usually too most food” – is wrong, he said.

“When we review ultra-processed dishes to a rest we see distinguished differences [in nutritive quality],” he said. “We are recommending people extent or equivocate ultra-processed dishes since they have really low nutritive quality.”

Eating biscuits or crisps or celebration cola spasmodic does no harm, he says, though these dishes are designed to make us wish some-more of them. “It is over liking. We are entering a universe of craving,” he said. They are also zodiacally accessible and cheap. The pivotal mixture are polished flours, inexpensive oil and fats, sugars, starches, protein isolates and salt.

“We are relocating serve and serve divided from food that nourishes us,” he said.

Professor Corinna Hawkes, executive of food process during City University London and one of a lead researchers in a government-funded plumpness investigate process unit, agrees we should try to revoke a faith on ultra-processed foods.

She cited a instance of Pepsi’s Walkers Sunbites, that are popcorn sole as a wholefood snack. “That’s a classical reformulation. They are baked with whole pellet and unfeeling oils. we consider they supplement positively no value to a diet whatever. Have a square of wholegrain bread if we wish a healthy snack.”

But, she said, we need change in a eating enlightenment and children need to learn to learn to like a ambience of genuine foods, including those that are bitter.

“We are obliged as a multitude that immature kids learn to like healthy foods. All profound women and carers and grandparents who give treats have to have a correct preparation around this,” she said.

The food companies pronounced their products could be consumed as partial of a balanced, healthy diet and that they were creation changes to concede consumers to make healthier choices. Kellogg’s pronounced Froot Loops in Europe were done from “natural grains and enclose usually healthy colours” and fortified with total vitamins. Premier pronounced it had reduced a sugarine in Mr Kipling slices. McVitie’s pronounced it supposing pure information so people could make “informed snacking choices”.

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