Ultra-Processed Food on the agenda at Holyrood
The UK has a problem with the over-consumption of Ultra Processed Foods (UPFs).
Through our campaign work over recent years, we have highlighted the fact that UPFs make up more than half of the average UK shopping basket.
However, changing diets is not easy, and we think there is a big role for government to play.
Firstly, to raise awareness of the impact of a diet high in UPFs and secondly, to encourage the public to consume less of these products and more fresh, natural whole foods.
We have been engaging with parliamentarians across the UK on this issue, and this week, the subject was brought firmly onto the agenda of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
Good Food Nation debate
We were delighted to hear Rachael Hamilton MSP raise this important issue with a series of proposed amendments on UPFs during a Stage 3 debate on the Good Food Nation Bill.
The amendments, which won cross-party support from Scottish Conservative, Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democrat MSPs, would have recognised in law, the harms caused by ultra-processed foods and the need to reduce consumption of UPFs.
In her remarks citing the Soil Association’s work, Ms Hamilton, the MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, said there was a “clear and undeniable link between UPFs and poor health outcomes”.
This has been one of our key messages in our work to raise awareness about the impact of UPFs. There is a robust body of science linking diets rich in UPFs to obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, depression and all-case mortality.
The evidence suggests that we should be eating less ultra-processed food and more whole fresh, natural whole foods.
A significant moment in our campaign
To have MSPs from across party lines uniting to support our message on UPFs feels like a significant moment in our campaign. We are calling upon governments across the UK to take action to encourage the reduction in consumption of UPFs. This includes adopting a percentage reduction target for UPFs, as other countries including France have already done.
We would also like to see changes to dietary guidance acknowledging the links between UPFs and chronic disease, as well as labelling for consumers to indicate when products are ultra-processed.
Finally, we want to see more work done across the UK to reconnect children with where their food comes from, and to implement practical food education through programmes like Food for Life.
The Good Food Nation Bill is a landmark piece of legislation in Scotland, and we would like to see similar food bills brought forward in England and Wales.
The UPF amendments did not make it onto the face of the Bill, with the Scottish Government arguing that it is a framework bill which requires ministers to produce a National Good Food Plan – and that is where the detail should lie.
We will be doubling our efforts to build support for our asks on UPFs, and will be campaigning with other organisations for the health impacts of UPFs – and the need to reduce consumption of UPFs – to be recognised in the National Good Food Plan for Scotland.