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Report calls for rethinking 'ultra-processed' label for vegan meats

February 8, 2024

A new report has been published that analyzes the public perceptions surrounding the 'ultra-processed' (UPF) label attached to some plant-based meat alternatives, arguing it is leading to widespread misunderstanding that these meat-free products are unsafe and not good for us, which could in turn discourage consumers from eating safer and more nutritious foods and jeopardize progress toward meeting climate and biodiversity goals.

Originally intended to identify heavily processed, factory-made foods by large companies, the UPF label has become synonymous with 'unhealthy' in public discourse. This week's report, Processing the discourse over plant-based meat, criticizes how UPF labeling has morphed into "hysteria" disconnected from scientific evidence and potentially hindering progress towards health and sustainability goals.

Jenny Chapman, the report's author and a food systems researcher, said: "The UPF categorization simply tells us that plant-based meats, like many other foods we eat (tofu, hummus, oat milk, wholemeal bread), are made in factories. It doesn't tell you if a food is healthy or not."

The report argues that lumping diverse vegan meats under the 'ultra-processed' umbrella ignores their potential health benefits and overlooks the varying degrees of processing within the category. Some plant-based alternatives might contain added ingredients considered unhealthy, while others are primarily based on whole foods like legumes and vegetables.

Among the key considerations, the report encourages nuanced discussions about food processing, recognizing that 'factory-made' doesn't automatically equal 'unhealthy'. It highlights the lack of conclusive evidence linking all UPFs to negative health outcomes, urging for a more specific and evidence-based approach. The report also raises concerns that the current 'hysteria' around UPFs could hinder the adoption of sustainable and potentially healthy plant-based protein sources.

This report adds fuel to the ongoing debate about how to categorize and understand the health implications of processed foods. It encourages a more critical and science-based approach to labeling, avoiding broad generalizations that might mislead consumers and hinder healthy dietary choices.

You can download the full report by clicking here

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us, please email info@futureofproteinproduction.com

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