IFST ultra processed food

Leatherhead sponsored the IFST’s annual lecture on ultra processed foods

Ultra processed foods have hit the headlines recently as being the unhealthy option and something we should be eating less of. However, Professor Michael Gibney, Emeritus Food and Health at University College Dublin had other ideas.

So, what were the take-home messages?

Nutrition is becoming an increasingly holistic term, encompassing wellbeing, free-from and avoidance of artificial or synthetic foods and additives in preference of ‘natural’, ‘kitchen cupboard’ and ‘clean label’ ingredients.

Find out more Grey arrow pointing right


According to the NOVA definition, foods are classified into 4 categories according to how they are processed. This classification was developed in Brazil by Monterio et al.

Group 1: unprocessed/minimally processed foods including fruit and vegetables, eggs and milk i.e. The edible parts of plants and animals.

Group 2: ingredients which are obtained from group 1 and include vegetable oils, butter and sugar.

Group 3: processed foods group which includes foods with two or three ingredients, i.e. Cured meats and canned fish to help preserve group 1 foods.

Group 4: ultra processed foods which contain five or more ingredients and include sugar, oils, fats, salt, antioxidants, stabilisers and preservatives. This category is reported to make up 60% of daily intake and the list of foods included in this category is very wide and includes foods like yoghurts, milk products and breakfast cereals which are all major contributors of nutrients in the diet.

There is less scientific evidence than first thought supporting the loss of nutrients from ultra processed foods.


There is more evidence that ultra processed foods contain higher levels of sugars and lower levels of fibre – areas ripe for reformation.


Processed foods are here to stay and have a place in our busy lives where convenience is key. It is also reported that the cost of unprocessed foods is 40% more expensive than processed foods and therefore only affordable to some people.


Even with all this in mind, it is all about moderation! Eating a healthy balanced diet is still advocated to help maintain a healthy weight and to prevent non-communicable diseases like heart disease and cancer.


Jenny Arthur, Head of Nutrition and Membership

If you have any questions, please contact [email protected] or call us on  +44 (0)1372 376761