Foodservice Footprint HEADS2 The Friday Digest: Public express concern over UPFs Out of Home News Analysis  news-story-top news-email-top

The Friday Digest: Public express concern over UPFs

First up this week is news that the growing body of evidence on the negative impact of consuming ultra-processed foods (UPFs) appears to be seeping into the public consciousness. The results of a survey of 10,000 people from 17 European countries published this week found that 65% believe UPFs are unhealthy and will cause health issues later in life.

The study from the EIT Food Consumer Observatory found that a majority (67%) of European consumers do not like it when their foods contain ingredients they do not recognise, and 40% do not trust that UPFs are regulated well enough by authorities to ensure these foods are safe and healthy in the long term.

The research also found confusion as to what constitutes an ultra-processed food, a category that includes packaged snacks, soda, sugary cereals, energy drinks and chocolate bars, as well as foods such as ready-made sauces and dips, ready meals and salad dressings. Just 34% and 22% of people respectively correctly identified vegan cheese and chocolate bars as being ultra-processed.

Concerns over processing levels are putting many consumers off choosing plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products. Over half (54%) of European consumers said they do not eat plant-based substitutes because they want to avoid UPFs.

In addition to concerns over health, 60% of those surveyed considered UPFs to be bad for the environment, linked to the perception of unnaturalness, the presence of chemicals and industrial production.

From concerns over health to concerns over greenwashing: a new report has found that business’s net-zero commitments risk being undermined by their membership of trade bodies whose lobbying is thwarting climate progress. The report from financial think tank, Planet Tracker, urged businesses to reassess their affiliations with industry associations that diverge from their own environmental objectives in order to avoid accusations of greenwashing.

Previous analysis by Planet Tracker identified companies including Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Walmart as being members of trade associations that are deemed as being misaligned with the Paris Agreement. Danone and Nestlé were also assessed but found not to be members of misaligned trade associations. “Consistent messaging and diligent trade association oversight should be the norm, and where there is persistent misalignment, an exit from these trade associations should be planned,” said Ion Visinovschi, transition research analyst at Planet Tracker.

To the drinks’ sector next and news that Scotland plans to increase the minimum price per unit of alcohol to 65p. Minimum unit pricing (MUP) legislation is due to expire on April 30th this year unless the Scottish parliament votes to keep it. The Scottish government has confirmed it plans to extend the legislation and increase the MUP by 15p to 65p to counteract the effects of inflation. The proposal will now go before parliament for approval and will take effect on September 30th 2024 if agreed. “Research commended by internationally-renowned public health experts estimated that our world-leading MUP policy has saved hundreds of lives, likely averted hundreds of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions and contributed to reducing health inequalities,” said deputy first minister, Shona Robison.

Finally this week, customers of foodservice wholesaler Brakes will be able to quantify and display the carbon impact of their menus following a partnership between technology provider Nutritics and Brakes owner, Sysco GB. Under the arrangement, Nutritics’ environmental impact scoring system, Foodprint, will become part of Brakes’ ‘virtual chef’ concept, giving customers visibility of product-level carbon and water data together with nutritional, allergen and margin information. “Over 90% of our carbon footprint is the food that we sell, so educating our team and supporting customers on the design and development of menus and the products they are sourcing is vital to us playing our part in tackling climate change,” said Pete Statham, head of sustainability and government relations at Sysco GB.

Also covered in this week’s Footprint news is a call for government funding for green initiatives by food manufacturers; researching showing how red packaging can boost the appeal of plant-based meat alternatives; and evidence showing the sharp rise in US-style mega farms housing UK livestock.