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Towards Unified and Impactful Policies to Reduce Ultra-processed Food Consumption and Promote Healthier Eating


Popkin, Barry M.; Barquera, Simon; Corvalan, Camila; Hofman, Karen J.; Monteiro, Carlos Augusto; Ng, Shu Wen; Swart, Elizabeth C.; & Taillie, Lindsey Smith (2021). Towards Unified and Impactful Policies to Reduce Ultra-processed Food Consumption and Promote Healthier Eating. Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 9(7), 462-470. PMCID: PMC8217149


The global surges in obesity and nutrition-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have created a need for decisive new food policy initiatives. A major concern has been the impact of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) and ultra-processed drinks on weight gain and on the risk of several NCDs. These foods, generally high in calories, added sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats, and poor in fibre, protein, and micronutrients, have extensive negative effects on human health and on the environment (due to their associated carbon emission and water use). There is a growing tendency worldwide, and especially in South America, for food companies to add micronutrients to UPFs to make health claims regarding these products, to which food-regulating authorities refer to fake foods. Although more than 45 countries and smaller subregional or urban entities have created taxes on ultra-processed drinks, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, only a few have adopted taxes on snacks and other UPFs, and none have added major subsidies for truly healthy, fresh or minimally processed food for people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Another major focus has been on developing effective package labelling. A smaller number of countries have selected the most impactful warning labels and linked them with other measures to create a mutually reinforcing set of policies; a few other countries have developed effective school food policies. We herein present in-depth results from key countries involved in all these actions and in comprehensive marketing controls, and conclude with our recommendations for the future. This field is quite new; progress to date is substantial, but much more is left to learn.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology


Popkin, Barry M.
Barquera, Simon
Corvalan, Camila
Hofman, Karen J.
Monteiro, Carlos Augusto
Ng, Shu Wen
Swart, Elizabeth C.
Taillie, Lindsey Smith

Article Type





Popkin - 0000-0001-9495-9324
Taillie - 0000-0002-4555-2525
Ng - 0000-0003-0582-110X