Taking the biscuit

The UK Government is 'Taking the biscuit'

Despite growing evidence showing the major health risks associated with ultra-processed food (UPF), our investigation has revealed that the UK Government's 'Better Health' app actively promotes them when it should be encouraging healthy eating.

Its Food Scanner App awards "Good Choice" badges to ultra-processed foods when it should be addressing the risks they present to our health. This is really taking the biscuit!

What are ultra-processed foods and are they bad for our health?

Ultra-processed foods, or UPFs, are defined by the NOVA categorisation, which divides commercially available foods into four groups.


We reviewed over 100 papers on UPFs published in academic journals between November 2021 and October 2022. They exposed clear associations between increased UPF consumption and negative health outcomes including links to heart, kidney and liver disease, cancer, depression and even early death.

Most of the food eaten in the UK is ultra-processed, making up a shocking 65 % of children’s diets.

Stamp of approval for unhealthy foods

What we found – the UK Government is offering a stamp of approval to UPFs, encouraging families to purchase unhealthy foods


We picked out the products on the left as prime examples of ultra-processed products awarded Good Choice badges or similar endorsements and promoted as ‘good', 'healthier choice’ or 'High Five' swaps by the NHS Food Scanner App. They are all produced by companies in the 2021 Top 100 Food & Beverage Companies, based on sales, or well-known British brands. Given the number of products thought to be part of the App’s database, we cannot say whether they are the worst in terms of their impact on health.

We need superpowers to resist UPFs!

It seems to take superpowers to resist UPFs. They are found everywhere, are cheap, moreish and widely advertised. They are almost impossible to avoid.

The UK Government's guidance ignores our excessive consumption of these products, including by our children, and even promotes sales through the use of its Good Choice badge and Food Scanner App.  

The UK Government needs to catch up with the science and enact a policy response, as other governments globally are doing. It needs to prioritise people over corporate profits, especially in a cost-of-living crisis.

The UK Government's guidance is deeply flawed, here’s what it should do instead

  • Remove its Good Choice badge from ultra-processed products, including in the NHS Food Scanner App
  • Introduce dietary guidelines to address UPFs
  • Introduce a percentage reduction target to reduce UPF consumption levels in the UK to more healthy levels by 2030
  • Talk to families about their experience of ultra-processed foods, and work to ensure that healthy foods are more accessible and affordable


What are the health effects of ultra-processed food?

A summary of the evidence on ultra-processed food

More about the environmental impacts of ultra-processed food

Thank you for your support

Nearly 14,000 of you signed our petition and nearly 2,000 of you wrote to your MP calling for action to address ultra-processed diets. This lead to multiple MPs asking parliamentary questions - a fantastic result. 

We will continue to push for re-balancing the UK diet away from ultra-processed foods and confronting the many health related harms their over-consumption causes.