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Our food system is broken: Experts slam ultra-processed foods at Kent food industry forum

Headline speakers on a panel at Produced in Kent’s annual Future Food Forum gave a damning indictment on the state of the current food system and the proliferation of Ultra-Processed Foods (UPFs) fuelling the nation’s obesity and mental health crises.

Keynote speakers on the panel of the event titled ‘What does the consumer want?’ included Kimberley Wilson; Chartered Psychologist, Nutritionist, and best-selling author of Unprocessed: How the Food We Eat is Fuelling our Mental Health Crisis and Sheila Dillon; multi-award-winning British food journalist, broadcaster, and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme.

Kimberley Wilson urged delegates to be angry about the fact that poor nutrition from UPFs is fuelling our mental health and obesity crisis and called for “a legislative body that will take this seriously and is not being influenced by the big food corporations.”

Sheila Dillon added that our current food system is leading to a health and environment disaster.  She called out the corrupt traffic light system that allows a UPF snack bar to have green lights across the board, while a pack of almonds has red.

David Edwards, Deputy Chair of the Food Farming Countryside Commission, called for a grassroots approach to inclusive and sustainable food policies. Tessa Stuart, the Managing Director of Asset Research, a consumer research company, agreed that we are too used to cheap food in the UK, and this impacts consumer choice, leading more people to choose ultra-processed foods over fresh produce.

Susie Warran-Smith, CEO of Produced in Kent, says: “We have reached a critical crossroads in the food sector, and we absolutely need to be having these conversations.  This is where organisations like ours, representing the local independent food and drink sector can help to drive change.  Our members hold the key to a better future for food in this country as consumers seek transparency and demand better quality food.”

Produced in Kent’s Future Food Forum on Friday 3 May, brought together independent food and drink businesses, sector specialists, industry, and local Government to discuss how to create a better and more sustainable food system.

The event was well attended by grass roots and more established brands from across the food and drink sector, from producers through to retailers. The forum took place at the Kent Business School, University of Kent, in Canterbury, and combined thought-provoking presentations with interactive workshops.


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AJ is a food writer, editor and PR.