The report concludes that rapidly increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods "in the next decades" may drive "an increasing burden" of cancer - particularly breast cancer - and other non-communicable diseases.
Led by experts at the Sorbonne University in Paris, the researchers said Britons were probably even more at risk because they would consume more ultra-processed food than the French adults in the study. A team of researchers from Université Sorbonne Paris Cité in France used food surveys over a two-day period to determine the food that almost 105,000 respondents were eating.
Ultra-processed foods are made in factories and come with ingredients that you would not find in regular kitchens.
While on average, mass-produced foods tend to be less healthy, there's no underlying reason why this is always the case. "Our reduction programmes are making healthier choices easier by reducing the calories, salt and sugar in many processed foods".
Foods such as mass-produced packaged breads and buns; snacks including crisps, chocolate and candies as well as foods nearly entirely containing sugar, oils and fats were considered ultra-processed by the researchers.
"People shouldn't worry about eating a bit of processed food here and there based on this study", Bauld wrote in an email. The team assessed 3,300 different food products as part of the study and classed each by the level of processing they had been subjected to.
Unprocessed or minimally processed foods in group one include as fresh, dry or frozen fruit and vegetables; packaged grains and pulses; flours made from corn, wheat, rye; pasta; eggs; fresh or frozen meat and fish and milk. We are a long way from understanding the full implications of food processing for health and well-being.
Researchers underlined that sugary drinks and other ultra-processed foods and drinks boost the risk of overall cancer. Essentially, this study has found a correlation, but there's nothing to suggest that the processed foods themselves are causing the cancer.
Policies targeting product reformulation, taxation and marketing restrictions on ultra-processed products and promotion of fresh or minimally processed foods may contribute to primary cancer prevention, the researchers suggested. The connection with certain cancers but not all was also notable, he added.
She told IBTimes UK: "In truth, across the world, food is more processed and this has become more normalised in society". Avoiding junk food and maintaining a balanced diet along with regulating the weight, she says, can help in maintaining an overall disease-free lifestyle. The FOB did not recognise British bread as ultra-processed, said director Gordon Polson.