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posted by hubie on Monday November 20, @06:17PM   Printer-friendly
from the recommended-daily-amount-of-Cheez-Its dept.

Nutrition experts are reviewing data on ultra-processed foods for 2025 guidance:

For the first time, health experts who develop the federal government's dietary guidelines for Americans are reviewing the effects of ultra-processed foods on the country's health—a review that could potentially lead to first-of-their-kind warnings or suggested limits in the upcoming 2025 guidance, The Washington Post reports.

Such warning or limits would mark the first time that Americans would be advised to consider not just the basic nutritional components of foods, but also how their foods are processed.

[...] Deirdre K. Tobias, a member of the guidelines advisory committee, told the Post that the study suggested ultra-processed foods seem to promote higher "passive intake" of calories beyond what our bodies need and that the numerous epidemiological studies suggesting a link between eating ultra-processed foods and having a higher risk of many diseases is "as compelling as it can be." She declined to comment directly on the upcoming guidelines, noting that the committee's work is underway.

The Post also notes that the food industry has strongly pushed back—writing directly to the committee telling them not to issue any warnings or limits. One key point of contention is that there is no exact or established definition of what counts as "ultra-processed." Generally, it is considered to include any industrially produced food product with artificial combinations of flavors and additives, such as artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, and synthetic colors. Products that easily fit the definition include things like chips, frozen dinners, boxed sweetened cereals, chicken nuggets, and boxed macaroni and cheese.

Much to the dismay of nutrition experts, the National School Lunch Program allows its 30 million participating schools to serve products clearly in the ultra-processed food category, including Domino's pizza, Lunchables, and Cheez-Its. Currently, the products must only meet the federal dietary guidance's standards for things like sodium, fat, protein, and whole grains—regardless of how many other additives they include.


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  • (Score: 2) by looorg on Monday November 20, @06:23PM (3 children)

    by looorg (578) on Monday November 20, @06:23PM (#1333642)

    One key point of contention is that there is no exact or established definition of what counts as "ultra-processed."

    Clearly if you are going to warn about it then you kind of need to know what you are going to warn about or the warning be somewhat pointless.

    Without any kind of clear and established definition this is either going to be long list, or a really short list -- ALL OF THEM as it would seem to be easier to just name the once that are not processed into oblivion by one method or another. Unless you just picked it from a tree inside the store then it was processed in some regard for your convenience.

    Even if they decide on what is "ultra-processed" I guess they could just create some other buzzwords or definitions. No, our food isn't ultra-processed ... We only do Epsilon-Processing here. The good kind!

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by khallow on Monday November 20, @07:27PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 20, @07:27PM (#1333646) Journal

      One key point of contention is that there is no exact or established definition of what counts as "ultra-processed."

      I suspected as much once I saw the use of the prefix "ultra". This seems to signal garbage terms these days ("ultra-loyal" is another example). Anyway, reviewing Wikipedia, something called the Nova classification [wikipedia.org] appears to be the source for the term:

      Nova classifies food into four groups:

      1. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods
      2. Processed culinary ingredients
      3. Processed foods
      4. Ultra-processed foods

      Moving on:

      The most recent overview of Nova published with Monteiro defines ultra-processed food as follows:

      Industrially manufactured food products made up of several ingredients (formulations) including sugar, oils, fats and salt (generally in combination and in higher amounts than in processed foods) and food substances of no or rare culinary use (such as high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, modified starches and protein isolates). Group 1 foods are absent or represent a small proportion of the ingredients in the formulation. Processes enabling the manufacture of ultra-processed foods include industrial techniques such as extrusion, moulding and pre-frying; application of additives including those whose function is to make the final product palatable or hyperpalatable such as flavours, colourants, non-sugar sweeteners and emulsifiers; and sophisticated packaging, usually with synthetic materials. Processes and ingredients here are designed to create highly profitable (low-cost ingredients, long shelf-life, emphatic branding), convenient (ready-to-(h)eat or to drink), tasteful alternatives to all other Nova food groups and to freshly prepared dishes and meals. Ultra-processed foods are operationally distinguishable from processed foods by the presence of food substances of no culinary use (varieties of sugars such as fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, ‘fruit juice concentrates’, invert sugar, maltodextrin, glucose and lactose; modified starches; modified oils such as hydrogenated or interesterified oils; and protein sources such as hydrolysed proteins, soya protein isolate, gluten, casein, whey protein and ‘mechanically separated meat’) or of additives with cosmetic functions (flavours, flavour enhancers, colours, emulsifiers, emulsifying salts, sweeteners, thickeners and anti-foaming, bulking, carbonating, foaming, gelling and glazing agents) in their list of ingredients.[19] [nature.com]

      I'll note that even pre-agriculture humans could easily hit level 3, processed foods and hypothetically level 4, if they ever used dyes to make the food look pretty. So it's basically a way of lumping industrially processed foods into the last category with a lot of other stuff tossed in.

    • (Score: 2) by krishnoid on Monday November 20, @08:24PM

      by krishnoid (1156) on Monday November 20, @08:24PM (#1333651)

      One key point of contention is that there is no exact or established definition of what counts as "ultra-processed."

      Something that comes out of the ground or out of an animal and then rinsed and cut, you can consider unprocessed. Beyond that, a rough guideline [sciencedirect.com] may be of more practical use to the unwashed (but rinsed) consumer than an "exact or established" legal definition.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, @08:35AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, @08:35AM (#1333702)

      Plenty might already know that stuff is unhealthy. But how unhealthy is it? Can a normal US person on a healthy diet regularly eat a typical serving once a week (e.g. cheat day once a week)? Once a month?

      Also those who are willing to change their diet to eat more healthily, might not know what is healthy from the subset of what they can afford and is available within their "shopping range".

      Lastly, the USA has long had the Department of Agriculture giving out diet advice. Maybe a different department might be more appropriate when it comes to giving authoritative dietary advice for human health?

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Opportunist on Monday November 20, @08:16PM (7 children)

    by Opportunist (5545) on Monday November 20, @08:16PM (#1333649)

    Anyone heard about the Nutri-Score [wikipedia.org]? Dunno if that's in use outside of France and Germany. The industry gamed the fuck out of it. There's a few ways the scoring mechanism can be abused that turns white bread with no nutritional value (other than causing sugar spikes) into a top-health food and omega-3 rich fish into a nutritional disaster because it's too fatty.

    The weird bit is the more processed and manufactured the food is, the better it can be "adjusted" to fit the criteria for a "good" score, which results in ultraprocessed food to be top rated while unprocessed and "natural" products getting the dump ratings.

    Why would I expect anything less to happen here?

    Rest assured, the industry will read VERY carefully what is defined as what and will tweak their kibble to be as "unprocessed" as they can get away with.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by VLM on Monday November 20, @09:02PM (6 children)

      by VLM (445) on Monday November 20, @09:02PM (#1333653)

      The industry gamed the fuck out of it.

      Best summary of the whole topic we'll see.

      What we're going to end up with is warning stickers on raw beef tenderloin steaks warning that they're "ultra-processed" but oreos, tide pods, and fake milk products will be marketed as "unprocessed".

      Our overlords have been working against their own population for so long, that the concept of them doing something "good for the people" is cynically impossible to believe in. I'm sure it'll end up as a scam.

      • (Score: 1, Troll) by crafoo on Monday November 20, @10:45PM (5 children)

        by crafoo (6639) on Monday November 20, @10:45PM (#1333663)

        I agree. But consider this: we establish this institution and then we deport all foreign nationals in our government. we populate all elected and unelected positions in government with nationalists. Then we begin publicly executing the board of directors of companies that are poisoning our food and water supplies. People will quickly get the message.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday November 21, @02:54AM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday November 21, @02:54AM (#1333682) Journal
          Priorities seem a bit misplaced here. There isn't a lot of poisoning of food and water supplies contrary to narrative and we have humane and sensible punishments that fall well shy of execution. Instead, I consider murderous "nationalists" a bigger problem than that. If those would-be nationalists are willing to work within the rule of law - including such things as due process and sentences proportionate to the crime, that's one thing. "Then we begin publicly executing the board of directors of companies" isn't that.
        • (Score: 3, Disagree) by PiMuNu on Tuesday November 21, @08:38AM

          by PiMuNu (3823) on Tuesday November 21, @08:38AM (#1333703)

          The French revolution didn't end well.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by r_a_trip on Tuesday November 21, @09:29AM (2 children)

          by r_a_trip (5276) on Tuesday November 21, @09:29AM (#1333706)

          How wonderfully xenofobic. Only "foreign" nationals are working tirelessly towards poisoning the populace. Members of the "good ol' boys network" would never do that, right?

          I'd rather have a government official with a migrant background working towards food safety than a member of the established "good ol' boys network" trying to eek out another billion in profits by twisting food laws.

          • (Score: 1, Troll) by VLM on Tuesday November 21, @11:23PM (1 child)

            by VLM (445) on Tuesday November 21, @11:23PM (#1333799)

            Only "foreign" nationals are working tirelessly towards poisoning the populace.

            The number of coincidences is, however, enormous.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, @07:21AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, @07:21AM (#1333832)

              +1 Funny or -1 Troll. Fingers twitching...

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Adam on Monday November 20, @09:02PM (3 children)

    by Adam (2168) on Monday November 20, @09:02PM (#1333652)

    It wasn't that long ago they included an "added sugar" line in nutrition labels which has seemingly had no impact on what manufactures make or what consumers eat. This sounds like it'll be about as productive.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by stormreaver on Tuesday November 21, @12:06AM (2 children)

      by stormreaver (5101) on Tuesday November 21, @12:06AM (#1333672)

      ...which has seemingly had no impact on what manufactures make or what consumers eat.

      All the warnings in the world won't do a damned thing if there aren't reasonable alternatives. Products made without shitloads of added sugar or salt are so few and far between that they almost don't exist. It's a full-time job to find them, and then it requires a second job to pay for them.

      And then there's all the preservatives, which is a whole other issue.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday November 21, @03:01AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday November 21, @03:01AM (#1333684) Journal

        All the warnings in the world won't do a damned thing if there aren't reasonable alternatives.

        Or the people consuming these products aren't interested in the alternatives. It's not like the risks of processed food are something new.

        Products made without shitloads of added sugar or salt are so few and far between that they almost don't exist.

        Eh, I don't know where you're looking for these alleged products, but I haven't had trouble finding them even in low end grocery stores even among highly processed foods.

      • (Score: 1) by cereal_burpist on Wednesday November 22, @02:24AM

        by cereal_burpist (35552) on Wednesday November 22, @02:24AM (#1333817)

        All the warnings in the world won't do a damned thing

        Just like tobacco products. Denis Leary summed it up perfectly in 1992:

        https://genius.com/Denis-leary-drugs-lyrics

        He wants the whole front of the pack to be the warning. Like the problem is we just haven't noticed yet. Right? Like he's going to get his way and all of the sudden smokers around the world are going to be going, "...HOLY SHIT! These things are bad for you!" ...
        Doesn't matter how big the warnings are. You could have cigarettes that were called the warnings. You could have cigarettes that come in a black pack, with a skull and a cross bone on the front, called Tumors and smokers would be lined up around the block going, "I can't wait to get my hands on these fucking things! I bet you get a tumor as soon as you light up!
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by VLM on Monday November 20, @09:11PM (3 children)

    by VLM (445) on Monday November 20, @09:11PM (#1333654)

    National School Lunch Program

    Can confirm, my kids are at the ages where they're escaping from the K12 infrastructure and the schools are only allowed to sell junk food in the lunch room.

    Gen-Xers will understand what I mean when I describe it as they swapped the vending machines and lunch room food.

    "Back when I was a kid" they sold real food in the lunch room, lots of vegetables and baked chicken type stuff, and the vending machines were full of junk food. Now its swapped and the vending machines are all bottled water vs the lunchroom menu is total crap.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 20, @10:11PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 20, @10:11PM (#1333659)

      Even when I was in K-12 (mostly during the 1960s) the school cafeteria food was pretty bad, unrecognizable meat, lots of re-constituted mashed potatoes and the cheapest frozen veges boiled to near mush. There were no vending machines--I went back to visit a year after graduation and still remember being disgusted to see soft drink (Coke, etc) vending machines in the lunchroom...and wondering which members of the school board had been paid off...

      I brought a lunch from home almost all the time (had the cafeteria food a few times, ugh). At the time I was the weirdo/outcast who had a sandwich on whole grain (often homemade) bread and birdseed (gorp + some other nuts & seeds). Now I'm grateful that my mother took the time to do this for me, and of course that my father made enough to afford the extra costs.

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by bzipitidoo on Monday November 20, @10:37PM

        by bzipitidoo (4388) on Monday November 20, @10:37PM (#1333661) Journal

        The wretchedness of school lunch food affected me in a good way. I wouldn't eat it. I was thought undernourished and underweight. I wasn't, but you know how standards of health were too narrow back in those days.

        It's been an age long battle, but American food and lifestyle is finally gaining the upper hand on me now. Many factors conspire to make it difficult to eat healthy. Living with an overweight person is one of the biggest. That has a lot of subtle knock on effects, in addition to the obvious problems of the fridge and pantry being filled with unhealthy food. Like, the overweight person will not get enough rest, stays up too late. Thinks work is more important. That makes it harder for the rest of the family to go to bed at a reasonably early hour. The overweight workaholic will even demand others stay up a little longer to do one or two more things before going to bed, accusing the rest of us of laziness. You get the munchies when you stay up late. I have read that sort of thing even leads to pets being obese.

    • (Score: 2) by crafoo on Monday November 20, @10:47PM

      by crafoo (6639) on Monday November 20, @10:47PM (#1333665)

      Google images of South Korean school lunches and then realize our public institutions are staffed with people that hate this country and hate the people that make up this country.

  • (Score: 1) by Runaway1956 on Tuesday November 21, @02:48AM (3 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday November 21, @02:48AM (#1333678) Journal

    definition include things like chips,

    I grew up eating Snyder's potatoe chips. They were real chips. Slices of potatoes dumped into a deep fat fryer, then salted. The ingredients list was short: potatoes, fat, salt. You knew what you were getting, and they were actually marginally nutritious.

    Today, "chips" have a long list of crap in them. And, I have little idea which of them have any nutrition in them.

    I can't get Snyder's where I live. The best chips I can get locally are Lay's. Now, Lay's makes a helluva lot of mystery things they call "chips", but their "classic" chips still have 3 ingredients: potatoes, fat, and salt. I seldom eat any other kind of chips. And, no, Lay's doesn't taste like Snyder's. They use a different salt, and a different fat.

    Of course, the fat is the biggest taste factor. Who remembers when McDonald's fried their fries in beef tallow? When they switched to vegetable oil, the taste of the fries changed drastically. Most vegetable oils are crap anyway.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, @04:19AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, @04:19AM (#1333688)

      If you like potatoes, why not bake some (microwave, turning a few times), then slice and re-fry in butter to desired crispiness. Leave the skins on! Salt if you must, but I never even bother.

      Nothing that comes in a plastic bag is going to compete with that.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Tuesday November 21, @12:19PM (1 child)

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday November 21, @12:19PM (#1333715) Journal

        Good point - and in fact I have made my own French fries at home. I prefer the air fryer to the microwave. Toss the fries in a bowl with a bit of butter, or olive oil before cooking, they come out really nice. But, I don't have the skill or the tool to slice those wafer thin slices of potatoes like you find in potato chip bags. Additionally, it's probably difficult and tedious to arrange all those potato chips so they cook evenly. French fries are relatively easy to arrange on a tray, compared to potato chips. Your observation is accurate, but, as I say, I lack the skill and the patience to do it right.

        • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, @03:13PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, @03:13PM (#1333738)

          > wafer thin slices

          This is the obvious way to increase the ratio of grease & salt : potato. Thin slices means more surface area. I'd rather have more potato, but that's just me.

          A nice story about the history of potato chips/crisps - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato_chip [wikipedia.org] (no idea if it's all true...) suggests that they have only been around for a couple of hundred years. A blink of an eye compared to the evolution of our digestive system...

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Thexalon on Tuesday November 21, @12:55PM

    by Thexalon (636) on Tuesday November 21, @12:55PM (#1333722)

    They eat it anyways. Why?
    1. Because it's frequently the cheapest food available. Calories per dollar matters when you're poor.
    2. Because it's scientifically engineered to be appealing to humans. Not necessarily taste good, but convince you that you want more of it.
    3. Because it's advertised to all get-out. You don't see ads anywhere near as frequently for, say, "Buy delicious acorn squash!"
    4. Because it's usually something they can eat without a full kitchen available. Some slumlords genuinely don't provide stuff like a stove.
    5. Because it's sometimes the only food available where they live. There are millions of Americans who can't reasonably get to a proper grocery store, and are instead served by convenience stores and fast food restaurants only.

    --
    The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
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