Ultra-processed foods ‘should carry tobacco-style warning’ – scientist says

By: Trademagazin editor Date: 2024. 07. 08. 09:10

Professor Carlos Monteiro said studies and reviews into the impact of UPFs were no longer sufficient to warn of the health hazards.

The Brazilian scientist who coined the term ultra-processed foods (UPFs) is calling for such products to carry a health warning of the type seen on tobacco packaging.

Speaking to the UK’s The Guardian newspaper in the run-up to the International Congress on Obesity in Brazil, Professor Carlos Monteiro of the University of São Paulo said studies and reviews into the impact of UPFs were no longer sufficient to warn the public of the health hazards.

“Public health campaigns are needed like those against tobacco to curb the dangers of UPFs. Campaigns would include the health dangers of consumption of UPFs,” he told the newspaper.

He added: “Advertisements for UPFs should also be banned or heavily restricted, and front-of-pack warnings should be introduced similar to those used for cigarette packs.”

Definitions of what constitutes ultra-processed food differ but in general they are said to contain ingredients not used in home cooking, such as chemicals, colourings and sweeteners, which are used to improve the food’s appearance, taste or texture.

Rebeca Fernández, science director at industry association FoodDrinkEurope, said: “To connect the consumption of processed foods with the tobacco and fossil fuel industries is irresponsible and outrageously misleading. We all need food – and we all need processed food.”

In his interview with The Guardian, Prof. Monteiro said: “UPFs are increasing their share in and domination of global diets, despite the risk they represent to health in terms of increasing the risk of multiple chronic diseases.

“UPFs are displacing healthier, less processed foods all over the world and also causing a deterioration in diet quality due to their several harmful attributes. Together, these foods are driving the pandemic of obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes.”

Monteiro and his colleagues first used the term UPF 15 years ago. Their system places food and drink into four groups: minimally processed food, processed culinary ingredients, processed food and ultra-processed food.

Just Food

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