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The Different Categories Of Processed Food

Ultra-Processed People Book Cover
[1] We have become a culture of ultra-processed people (photo © W. W. Norton & Company).


How much do you think about processed food? We want to share some information from Ultra-Processed People: The Science Behind Food That Isn’t Food, by Chris van Tulleken.

The review, written by Jacob E. Gersen, the Sidney Austin professor of law at Harvard Law School and director of the Food Law Lab.

What is ultra-processed food?

According to a relatively recent classification scheme called NOVA, created by researchers in Brazil (see image below):

  • Food Group 1 is defined as “unprocessed or minimally processed foods,” things like meat, fruit, flour, and pasta.
  • Food Group 2 is “processed culinary ingredients”—oils, butter, sugar, honey, and starches.
  • Food Group 3 is “processed food”: ready-to-eat mixtures of the first two, processed for preservation, meaning beans, bread, salted nuts, and smoked meat.
  • Food Group 4 is “ultra-processed foods,” defined as formulations of ingredients, “mostly of exclusive industrial use, made by a series of industrial processes, many requiring sophisticated equipment and technology.” This includes “junk food”: candy bars, energy drinks, packaged snacks, soda, sugary cereals, and surprisingly, infant formula.
    While they are now linked to the leading cause of early death globally (including obesity) and the number one cause of environmental destruction, almost all our staple foods are ultra-processed.

    Ultra-processed food (UPF) products are specifically engineered to behave as addictive substances, driving excess consumption.

    UPF is our food culture and for many people, it is the only available and affordable food [source].

    Because ultra-processed food’s defining characteristic is a rapacious profit motive, relays Gersen, the book’s warnings about the bodily harm it causes, including obesity, often veer into attacks on corporate greed and late industrial capitalism.

    > Read the full book review here.

    > Buy the book here.
    NOVA Food Classification
    [2] NOVA Food Classification (image © Frontiers In Nutrition).




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