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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: 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.

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