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With over a quarter of adults now living with obesity and many more overweight, the consequences of poor diets are increasingly stark – for the NHS, the economy, for families and individuals. We know any new government will rightly take a refreshed approach to tackling this. Food and drink manufacturers will have a critical role to play, and we’re committed to doing so constructively.

But as we look at how we help people to achieve more balanced diets, we’re concerned about the ferocity of the debate around UPF. We’re taking the accusations against the food industry seriously, and following the research closely.

However, on the current evidence, we don’t think omitting UPF is the answer to healthier diets. It is presented as a silver bullet in the fight against obesity. But when you examine it, the UPF argument isn’t underpinned by strong scientific evidence.

In fact, it turns the UK’s clear, established dietary guidance on its head, making it harder for shoppers to choose what to eat and drink. Should we buy supermarket wholegrain bread, pasta sauce or low-calorie yoghurts and drinks, which are healthy choices according to government guidance but also UPF? Or should we choose full-sugar options and locally made, higher-salt bread, to avoid consuming a UPF?

This leaves industry in a bind. Should we remove an additive from a product to avoid it being UPF – which might drive up the price, shorten a shelf-life, or raise fat or sugar content – even when that additive is approved by the government as safe? Should we persist with reformulating products when that often means more processing?

The scientific evidence – which continues to point overwhelmingly to the negative health impacts of too much saturated fat, salt and sugar in our diets, and the need for more fruit, vegetables and fibre – suggests we should. UPF suggests we shouldn’t.

This confusion is unhelpful. Industry scientists and nutritionists need clear guidance – currently the Eatwell Guide, the nutrient profiling model, the traffic light label – to provide the parameters and baseline for research, innovation and reformulation to improve the nutrient content of our products and define appropriate portion sizes.

We’re uneasy about the confusion for consumers too. Consumer research tells us people broadly know what food and drink should form most of their diet and what’s a more occasional treat. What they want from industry and government is clear and simple signposting, as well as help at the points where they’re most likely to fail. UPF is the opposite of clear and easy-to-follow advice.


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The UPF debate also risks demonising processed food. Virtually all the food we eat is processed. Processing is necessary and important, for food safety, quality and nutrition – for example, in the vitamins and minerals added to flour. It also helps to extend shelf-life, reduce food waste, and bring variety and choice to our diets.

Processed foods are the mainstay of hard-working families. They support the elderly and people with special diets. They help keep food affordable, and they can be healthier than what we make at home – for example, when saturated fat has been removed or fibre added.

We will continue to follow the UPF debate closely, and if the science changes, of course our industry will respond rapidly. But in the absence of robust evidence, what’s important to us is how we step up our efforts to help consumers take better, healthier choices every day in support of their long-term health, building on the common-sense principles people instinctively and already know.

This work, which involves collaboration across the food and drink industry, has further go to. But in this and other ways, we’re committed to finding new ways to nudge people further towards the Eatwell Guide.