Junk food 'should get cigarette-style warnings', researchers say

Junk food ‘should get cigarette-style health warnings’: Ultra-processed meals laden with sugar, fat and salt need to carry alerts, researchers say

  • Researchers say junk food should come with cigarette-style health warnings 
  • The new study published said ultra-processed foods were the ‘new tobacco’ 
  • Traffic light labels for food in the UK are voluntary and only feature some figures

Junk food ought to carry cigarette-style health warnings on packaging to tackle obesity, experts have said.

Researchers argued the public are ‘bamboozled’ by the clever marketing tactics of firms making popular ultra-processed foods laden with sugar, fat and salt.

They said food that ‘our grandparents wouldn’t have recognised’, such as cake, fizzy drinks and frozen pizza, should be branded with stark health warnings.

Junk food ought to carry cigarette-style health warnings on packaging to tackle obesity, experts have said (file photo used)

The messages would alert us to the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and early death from poor diets.

It is mandatory for cigarette packets to include text and picture health warnings, such as an image of cancerous lungs.

Currently, traffic light labels for food in the UK are voluntary and simply highlight figures for fat, sugar, salt and calories.

A study published yesterday in BMJ Global Health said ultra-processed foods were the ‘new tobacco’ and called for stricter rules around their packaging.

Last year, ministers launched an anti-obesity strategy which will see a pre-9pm TV ban on junk food adverts (pictured in a file photo)

For example, a box of cookies would carry text warning that the snacks were highly processed as well as high in salt, sugar or fat.

The researchers added that such foods are ‘associated with positive emotions’ due to ‘decades of persuasive marketing’.

Lead author Trish Cotter, of New York-based public health charity Vital Strategies, said: ‘The industrial processing, as well as the cocktail of additives, flavours, emulsifiers and colours they contain to give flavour and texture make the final product hyperpalatable… and potentially addictive, which in turn leads to poor dietary patterns.’

A sugar tax on soft drinks introduced in 2018 led firms to reformulate recipes, which in turn led to reduced sugar consumption (file photo used)

Miss Cotter said these products expose us to a ‘higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression and death’.

She defined ultra-processed products as those that are ready to eat, contain more than five ingredients and have a long shelf-life.

The average Briton gets nearly half of their calories from these foods, contributing to soaring obesity rates.

Fond of chocolate? Turn the lights up

If you find yourself dipping into the Quality Street tin a little too often this Christmas, try turning the lights up.

Sweet and salty foods taste nicer when consumed under dimmed lighting, a study of more than 300 people has found.

It could explain why popcorn and sweets are so delicious at the cinema. Researchers from Mercer University in Georgia in the US asked participants to eat a square of milk chocolate, with about half wearing tinted sunglasses to mimic a dark room. Those in glasses rated it more highly.

Biscuits, crisps and cheese had similar results. The study, published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, concluded that reduced vision may heighten our sense of taste and smell.

 

Last year, ministers launched an anti-obesity strategy which will see a pre-9pm TV ban on junk food adverts.

A sugar tax on soft drinks introduced in 2018 led firms to reformulate recipes, which in turn led to reduced sugar consumption.

But a proposal this year to tax wholesale sugar and salt bought by manufacturers was not supported by the Prime Minister.

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