It’s hard to escape discussion on obesity in the UK. From the ban on promotions around HFSS being delayed to further debate on ultra processed food facing restrictions, the food and beverage industry has much to clear off its plate.
Many experts are putting forward scientific evidence indicating the damaging effect additives and processing have on the gut microbiome and on health. Governments worldwide are taking action. France has introduced a percentage reduction target for ultra-processed foods in the national diet and Canada, Brazil and Chile recommend limiting or avoiding them.
The direction in which it is heading is being framed by improving our health.
Ultimately, the burden of making healthier food choices isn’t going to fall solely on consumers to address.
Everyone will be called upon to work together, including the food and beverage industry and the government to improve the current situation. Clearly the government is taking a hands-off approach to reduce obesity and improve the nation’s health so new technology, processes and ideas are a reasonable way forward. We can look at reformulation to reduce calories and make people feel more full, add novel ingredients or even change processes.
The government’s role is to give food and drink manufacturers tax relief and business rate reductions to incentivise and enable innovations that make food, and food systems, healthier. Support for innovation to reduce obesity would send out a stronger message than correction by policy. The charity nesta suggests a levy to help food companies aim to improve health. I’m not sure how that works practically, however we should certainly explore its feasibility.
We are at a point where we can pre-empt and plan so that everyone benefits from each other’s ideas and opinions. The key is not to shy away from complex solutions solved by the many but to know the when and the ‘how’, as the rewards can outweigh the risks.
We should incentivise and support food manufacturers and providers across the food tech landscape to innovate towards applications and business models that actively improve food systems.
There is an opportunity to proactively harness food tech to make food healthier.
- Rodney Jack, editor, Food & Drink Technology.
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