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!
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.
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.
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
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.