A Major Communication Challenge of Our Times: What on Earth Do We Say About Processed Foods?

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Abstract

The subject of processed foods has stirred controversy in the scientific community, created confusion among consumers, and posed a major challenge to nutrition communicators. In the ongoing public discussion of “good” and “bad” foods, increasing scrutiny has fallen on processed foods, with their ingredient list as complex as whole foods are perceived as simple. Without getting into the health implications of our changing food system, consumer preferences, and increasingly food-preparation-distant lifestyles (which have afforded diminishing roles to home cooking and family dining and greatly increased the roles of convenience and “ready-to-eat”), the authors offer an in-depth look at the challenges of communicating about processed foods, whose importance in consumer diets seems likely to continue even while other food choices expand (with product proliferation at supermarkets, increasing popularity of farmers’ markets, etc). The criticality of communication issues is highlighted by the recent publication of 2 noteworthy books, Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal and Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, both of whose relevance to nutrition communication is discussed here.

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