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The WHO supports the consumption of certain ultra-processed foods, according to a new report.

The WHO supports the consumption of certain ultra-processed foods, according to a new report. Bakery and Cereal, meat, Pan-industry, Savoury Snacks, Shelf-stable, Social Responsibility Food and Beverage Business

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the University of Vienna have released a report indicating that the consumption of some ultra-processed foods (UPFs) can have positive health outcomes by reducing the risk of long-term conditions such as cancer and cardiometabolic diseases. The report highlights the presence of fibre in processed foods such as bread and cereals as beneficial to people’s health. This has sparked debate in the food and beverage industry concerning UPFs and their impact on consumer health.

Previous studies have raised concerns about the adverse effects of UPFs, linking them to an increased risk of obesity, heart issues, and diabetes. However, the recent report by the WHO sheds light on the positive aspects of certain UPFs, emphasizing the importance of not generalizing all ultra-processed foods as detrimental to health.

“The Consumption of Ultra-Processed Foods and Risk of Multimorbidity of Cancer and Cardiometabolic Diseases” study, based on over 266,000 participants across seven European countries, revealed that while certain UPFs like sausages and sugary drinks contribute to weight gain, others, such as ultra-processed breads, cereals, and plant-based alternatives, do not pose significant health risks.

It is essential for the food and drink business to recognize the different impacts of distinct UPFs on consumers’ health and well-being. This nuanced understanding can guide companies in the development and marketing of products that align with the evolving food and drink consumer trends. It may also influence food and beverage industry trends towards offering healthier alternatives and promoting transparency in ingredient sourcing and processing methods. Nonetheless, the findings of the WHO study emphasize that as the availability and consumption of UPFs increase globally, significant attention must be given to their long-term health effects.

Despite the positive health implications of certain UPFs, the report still underlines the inherent risks associated with ultra-processed foods in general. The WHO’s study underscores the concern that UPFs, which constitute 50–60% of the daily energy intake in some countries, are replacing fresh and minimally processed foods, thereby necessitating a discussion on their long-term effects and the need for food and beverage industry regulations.

As the industry strives to address these challenges and opportunities, exploring nuanced discussions around ultra-processed foods becomes imperative. This approach enables the food and drink business to adapt to the evolving consumer landscape, gain insights into food and beverage industry trends, and foster consumer trust by proactively addressing health and wellness concerns. Additionally, such discussions can shape the development of innovative products that cater to the changing preferences of health-conscious consumers.

The study was published in the medical journal “The Lancet”.

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