Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) dominate dietary patterns in many countries, including in Australia. Research has demonstrated an association between these ultra-processed dietary patterns and poor diet quality and health outcomes. The category of UPFs has shifted attention from the nutrient profile of processed foods (i.e., their sugar, sodium, fat content) to their processing and ingredient characteristics (technical dimension). A separate body of literature has examined the diverse range of socio-economic and food system drivers of UPFs production, distribution and consumption, and the central role transnational food manufacturing and fast-food corporations have in these processes. These technical/nutritional and socio-economic dimensions of UPFs tend to be analysed separately. In this paper I argue for the need to integrate the technical and social dimensions of UPFs if we are to understand the unity and the distinct character of UPFs, and in particular their technological and corporate character.


Gyorgy Scrinis is Associate Professor of Food Politics and Policy in the School of Agriculture and Food, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Melbourne. His research has examined the politics, policy and philosophy of food and nutrition, with a focus on nutrition science, dietary advice, functional foods, food labelling, animal welfare regulations, the role of transnational corporations, alternative proteins and new technologies of production. His book on Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice (Columbia University Press, 2013) develops a critique of nutritional reductionism in nutrition science, dietary advice and food engineering and marketing practices.

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