I appreciate the concerns about the issues raised in the Soil Association’s “Taking the Biscuit” campaign.
Although there is no universally agreed definition of ultra-processed foods, there are clear health risks to a diet high in foods classified as processed, with an increased risk of obesity and developing chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which provides recommendations on dietary guidelines, is currently carrying out a scoping review of the evidence on processed foods and health. SACN aims to publish its initial assessment in the summer of 2023.
A range of research on obesity is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care through the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). Current projects include the NIHR Obesity Policy Research Unit investigating the factors that drive parental decisions regarding food provision for infants across different income levels.
Finally, I understand the campaign would like to see the Good Choice badge removed from ultra-processed products, but I am assured that the Good Choice badge is underpinned by nutrition criteria that determine which products can display the badge.
Both the Good Choice app and the wider Better Health campaign recognise that, for many families, shifting towards the healthiest options may require more than one move. I am pleased that more eligible low-income families are now able to access fresh fruit and vegetables through the Healthy Start Scheme, since the value of the vouchers was increased from £3.10 to £4.25 a week in April 2021.
I am satisfied that the Government is taking a number of active steps to reduce levels of calories in products with high levels of salt, sugar and fat, but acknowledge there is more that can be done. I look forward to the SACN’s initial review later this year.