Home News How the future of bakery could be shaped by the ultra-processed food debate

How the future of bakery could be shaped by the ultra-processed food debate

by Celia

A recent report highlighting the risks associated with greater dietary exposure to Ultra-Processed Foods (UPF) has sparked calls for regulatory measures to address health concerns. The report revealed a strong correlation between increased consumption of UPF and a higher risk of over 30 adverse health effects, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

During a Food, Diet & Obesity committee hearing at the House of Lords in late February, prominent figures such as former government food tsar Henry Dimbleby and broadcaster Dr. Chris van Tulleken emphasized the urgent need for action. They proposed measures such as salt and sugar taxes, advertising bans extending beyond upcoming high fat, salt, and sugar (HFSS) regulations, and the introduction of black octagon label warnings on ultra-processed foods.

Dimbleby and van Tulleken raised concerns about the industry’s ability to self-regulate, suggesting that regulatory intervention is necessary to drive substantial change. While acknowledging the complexity of implementing regulations, they underscored the importance of nuanced approaches to address the issue effectively.

Unlike the HFSS regulations, which focus on specific products, the experts clarified that the term UPF encompasses industrial food and dietary patterns rather than individual items. They emphasized the need for a clear definition of UPF to facilitate understanding and regulation, with classification systems like NOVA frequently referenced. According to Dr. van Tulleken, foods wrapped in plastic and containing atypical ingredients are likely to fall under the category of ultra-processed foods.

In response to the ongoing debate, industry stakeholders like Alex Brassill, founder of JNCK Bakery, are exploring innovative approaches to offer healthier alternatives. JNCK Bakery’s products, such as the Milky Chocolate Cookie, prioritize lower sugar content and higher levels of fiber and protein. Brassill contends that while processing is inevitable in the bakery sector, the focus should be on the nutritional composition of ingredients rather than solely on the processing methods.

Similarly, Leo Campbell, co-founder of Modern Baker, advocates for reformulating UPFs to enhance their health benefits without compromising scalability. The introduction of products like Superloaf 5.0, engineered with optimized fibers and fermented seeds, exemplifies a “health-plus” strategy to promote healthier options in the market.

As discussions surrounding UPF regulation evolve, the industry is facing pivotal decisions on how to balance consumer preferences with health considerations in the production of processed foods. Stakeholders are increasingly recognizing the importance of prioritizing nutritional value and transparency to address health concerns associated with ultra-processed products.

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