Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Shortcomings of current ultra-processed food (UPF)regulatory approaches in Africa

The African Centre for Biodiversity (2024) Shortcomings of current ultra-processed food (UPF)regulatory approaches in Africa # 20 pp.

This 9th factsheet in the series on ultra-processed food (UPF) in Africa, discusses the current approaches to regulate the UPF industry by outlining the limitations of this approach and underscoring that these are only stop-gap measures.

Tackling UPF consumption has primarily been in the arena of health and nutrition policies and dietary guidelines, linked to nutrition-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) globally, and in Africa in particular. 

The main types of interventions include fiscal measures (primarily taxes); regulations to reduce or ban the marketing of UPFs, especially to children; front-of-package (FOP) labelling to warn consumers; limits on certain ingredients permitted in processed foods; and regulations controlling access to and promotion of UPFs in schools.
  • Overwhelming attention has been on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB), which is only one – albeit significant – element of the UPF industry. This reflects the main regulatory approach, namely, the targeting of nutrients such as salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats. 
  • While these are important steps to begin to address the unnecessary harms of UPF consumption, they fail to consider the scope and multidimensionality, the uniqueness of UPF, and their unique role in driving the triple burden of malnutrition and associated NCDs. 
  • The narrow focus on certain nutrients, in particular salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats does not address the particular health impacts of the series of industrial processing involved in the formulation of UPFs and fails to address the grave health and environmental implications throughout the lifecycle of products, including their associated industries.

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