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Fifty is fabulous. Except when it is the percentage of food that Brits buy which is
“ultra-processed” — in other words,  salty snacks, sugary cereals, industrially-made bread and desserts, ready-meals, reconstituted meats and sweetened soft drinks.

The Guardian highlighted a recent European study which shows that more than half the groceries people in the U.K. buy falls into the category of ultra-processed foods.


In the U.K., for example, leading brands are Mr Kipling cakes. Batchelors, which makes Super Noodles. McVitie’s biscuits. Kellogg’s breakfast cereals. Cadbury’s chocolate, Wrigley’s gum and Haribo sweets. Lay’s, from Pepsico, are the best-selling salty snacks.

This consumption trend is worrying. Even if you’re conscious of what you put in your body and do your best to avoid ‘ultra-processed’ foods, their popularity has wider implications. Shops, for example, stock things that sell. Processed foods have the advantage of long shelf-lives, high mark-ups, and popularity. That means they are probably crowding out less profitable groceries like fruit and veg.

The other consideration is that the more people eat of these foods, the more their bodies are conditioned to crave salt, sugar, fats and simple starches. If you’re hooked on processed food, it can be challenging to learn to enjoy real, simple, clean ingredients again. This makes positive lifestyle changes more difficult.

And when fresh food is hard to access, or more expensive, it is an even bigger obstacle to people making healthy food choices.

We can do our part by supporting merchants that sell real food: greengrocers, farmers’ markets, veg delivery schemes. Even going to local bakers or butchers (if you eat meat) is a good alternative to putting more money in the pockets of multi-national companies that are selling factory-produced rubbish and calling it food.

What’s your take on ultra-processed foods? Share in the comments!





photo credit: paul_appleyard Camberley 14 September 2013 003 via photopin (license)