Mind over munch

Professor Alan Kelly, take a bow.

The food scientist and technologist, at the University College Cork, says the demonisation of processing promotes misunderstanding and mistrust of the ways in which science and manufacturing actually make food better for us.

Plenty of people are being misled by what they read and hear about processed (and ultra-processed) food – the damage it does to your health, for one. However, the minute we cook something, we are processing it.

As the professor states, all food is processed. And, we seem to ignore that processing’s worth goes beyond transforming raw materials to edible foods to making food safer, more digestible and less susceptible to undesirable changes.

Some processed foods offer nutritional value and convenience too.

The problem is the food industry has done little to change the perception of what is deemed processing. Processed food appears the opposite of real food – a term without any single established definition – but then most people don’t have a clear understanding of what processed food means either.

Should we, as Professor Kelly argues, ban the terms processed and ultra-processed foods?

I’m not sure that’s the way to go. The history of processed food is long and storied so instead of writing off the terms why not showcase the science and technology behind the food we all see and eat?

It’s also a great time to tell the tale as if we expect to feed a growing population on a planet with finite arable land, we have to engineer new sources of food.

What should be communicated is that this new era of food science could help dig us out of growing problems facing the world’s food supply. Science, technology and data on the energy footprint of these technologies are going to help us create sustainable alternatives.

Tell the story now and we can all not just be more educated about our diets and health but also have a say about what’s in the food on our shelves.

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