Healthier Eating - is the food industry at a tipping point?

That's a question we posed in December 2018's edition of Breakthrough.

We know that food high in sugar, salt and saturated fat is implicated in a range of health problems, from obesity and type 2 diabetes to heart disease, stroke, several types of cancer and tooth decay. So is the food industry ready, able and willing to mass produce healthier food to reduce the health risks?

There are some positive signs:

  • Consumer research organisations continue to identify a growing desire for healthier food among potential customers.
  • Food companies who want to produce healthier food now have a range of options - including substitute ingredients which can reduce sugar, salt or fat content without compromising taste or requiring artificial alternatives; and reformulation of existing products (now a core skill for food companies operating internationally, as they may need to meet different taste and regulatory requirements).  
  • There is also growing evidence that healthier food is good for business.

Importantly, health concerns don't represent an existential threat to the food industry. People will always need to eat and drink. With increasing public and political pressure for healthier food it makes commercial sense for food companies to be seen as part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

The full article is available on pages 64 - 65 of the Winter 2018 edition of Breakthrough.

Ultra-processed food - an emerging health risk?

That's what a recent French study of over 100,000 people suggests. It found that a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra processed food was associated with an increased cancer risk  of more than 10%.

That's particularly important here in the UK, because we consume more ultra-processed food than any other country studied in Europe.

So what are the ultra-processed food we should be wary of? The NOVA food classification system explains they include sweet or savoury packaged snacks; industrialised confectionery and desserts; sodas and sweetened drinks; meat balls, poultry and fish nuggets, and other reconstituted meat products transformed with addition of preservatives other than salt (for example, nitrites); instant noodles and soups; mass produced packaged breads and buns; and frozen or shelf stable ready meals. 

There's clearly a need for food companies to recognise the health implications of the foods they are mass producing and (as we explain in the Breakthrough article) to take advantage of advances in food technology and the market potential of healthier foods to re-orientate their businesses - in the interests of both public health and their own reputations and long term commercial success.