People across the world are consuming more ultra-processed foods (UPFs). Will Latin American countries and elsewhere follow the path of the US and the UK, where over half of calories consumed now come from UPFs? Dr Neena Prasad, director of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Food Policy Program, joins us to talk about the power of and the power behind UPFs. We talk about the utility and harms of processing foods, the links between the tobacco industry and UPFs, and the public health measures advocated by the Food Policy Program. These include taxing UPFs, putting restrictions on marketing (especially to children), advancing public sector health promoting policies, and front-of-package nutrition labeling.
About Neena Prasad
Dr Neena Prasad is a public health physician who works at the intersection of science, advocacy & empathy. She is the director of Food Policy Program and Maternal & Reproductive Health Program at Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York City.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies' Food Policy Program
The Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Food Policy Program is dedicated to promoting healthier diets through policy change. This is an urgent global challenge: 8 million deaths are attributed to poor diets annually. Between 1990 and 2019, there was a 128% increase in mortality from being overweight. The good news is that the problem is preventable — and Bloomberg Philanthropies is supporting the enactment and evaluation of policy efforts that aim to move people toward healthier diets in cities and countries around the world. The program focuses its work in Brazil, the Caribbean (Jamaica & Barbados), Colombia, Mexico, South Africa, and the United States, all of which have high rates of obesity and are taking action. Additionally, the program supports the evaluation of promising policies in other low- and middle-income countries.
Background reading and resources
TABLE resources on ultra-processed food
TABLE explainer: What is ultra-processed food? And why do people disagree about its utility as a concept? (Walter Fraanje and Tara Garnett, 2019)
Explainer summary: Ultra Processed Foods (Trish Fisher, 2022)
Referenced in the conversation
Bridging the Water Gap: Social Movements Are Global Health’s Future (Calvillo, Morales and Cotter, 2023)
Fact Sheet: Ultra-Processed Foods: a global threat to public health (Global Food Research Program at UNC Chapel Hill, 2023)
Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gains (Hall et al. 2019)
Additional front of package labeling resources
Evaluation of child-directed marketing regulations (International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, May 2023)
Changes in food purchases (Lancet Planetary Health, August 2021)
Changes in food advertising following marketing regulations (American Journal of Public Health, July 2020)
Law on Food Labeling and Advertising (Available in English and Spanish, 2019)