Here’s a widely used definition of ultra-processed food, “Ultra-processed food is an industrially formulated edible substance derived from natural food or synthesized from other organic compounds. The resulting products are designed to be highly profitable, convenient, and hyperpalatable, often through food additives such as preservatives, colourings, and flavourings”.
The state of research into ultra-processed foods and their effects is evolving rapidly as of 2023. Epidemiological data suggest that consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with higher risks of certain diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain types of cancer. Researchers also present ultra-processing as a facet of environmental degradation caused by the food industry.
It’s been acknowledged that this is a worldwide problem. The UK is facing a chronic illness epidemic, with diabetes rates at record levels and cancers in young people rising steeply. Now, there’s growing evidence suggesting this could be linked to the food we eat. Ultra-processed convenience foods contain chemicals that UK regulators say are safe, but in this documentary Panorama investigates emerging scientific evidence of a link between some of these chemicals and cancer, diabetes and strokes.