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Warning: Ultra-processed—A call for warnings on foods that aren’t really foods

Statement from Trish Cotter, Global Lead, Food Policy Program at Vital Strategies, on release of commentary in BMJ Global Health: 

“It’s high time that consumers had the opportunity to see ultra-processed foods for what they are: foods that are not real foods, containing nutrients that are not real nutrition, pervasively marketed by transnational corporations offering choices that are not real choices.  

“Our recently published commentary provides important insights on the importance of how best to communicate with the public to build support for regulating ultra-processed foods. One approach: A warning label that would enhance consumers’ existing knowledge—about harmful single nutrients such as sugar and salt—to a broader understanding of unhealthiness based on the level of food processing

Proposed warning label for ultra- processed food (Vital Strategies). 

“For public health efforts to be successful in reducing harm, it is crucial that  the term “ultra-processed products” and the need for their regulation are clearly and consistently understood. 

The rise of ultra-processed products is in part the result of the globalization of food systems and limited regulations on transnational food and beverage corporations. Unhealthy diets, many of which are dominated by ultra-processed foods, are responsible for 11 million preventable deaths each year. It is incumbent on governments and public health practitioners to respond with decisive action to advance the public’s right to healthy and nutritious food.” 

Read the full commentary here.

Learn more about Vital Strategies’ work in food policy.

About Trish Cotter 

Trish Cotter is the Global Lead of the Food Policy program at Vital Strategies and has more than 30 years of experience in public health working in cancer prevention, tobacco control and obesity prevention communication and social marketing campaigns. 

About Vital Strategies  

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in more than 70 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.