Consumers believe ultra-processed foods are damaging to their health and the environment

A new study titled, ‘Consumer perceptions unwrapped: ultra-processed foods’, has found that consumers believe ultra-processed foods (UPF) are damaging to both their health and the environment. The study was conducted in response to the fact that although ultra-processed foods make up a large part of consumer diets across Europe, there is still widespread confusion and distrust about what foods are classified as ultra processed and what ultra processed really means.

Why don’t consumers trust ultra-processed foods?

The study, carried out by EIT Food Consumer Observatory, included 9,787 adults from 17 countries across Europe. The results were conclusive, with a substantial 65% of respondents saying they believe ultra-processed foods to be unhealthy and likely to cause health issues later in life. Furthermore, 67% believe that ultra-processed foods specifically contribute to obesity and diabetes. However, in spite of this, only 56% said that they avoid buying these foods showing that convenience is a major contributing factor in consumer choices, though they noted that they hoped to keep them in balance with more home-made foods to maintain a healthy diet.

Sixty-seven percent of the consumers surveyed said they do not want their foods to contain ingredients they do not recognise and 40% do not trust that ultra-processed foods are regulated well enough by authorities to ensure they are safe and healthy in the long term.

“Whether it’s a pre-packaged pasta sauce for a quick meal at home, or a fast-food treat meal out with the family, ultra-processed foods are part of the day-to-day fabric of consumer diets across Europe,” observed Sofia Kuhn, director of public engagement at EIT Food. “However, it’s evident from these findings that people have real concerns about the health and sustainability aspects of these foods.”