A new report from First Steps Nutrition Trust indicates that an overwhelming number of children in the United Kingdom rely on a diet of ultra-processed foods. According to the report, 61 percent of the total average energy intake among children aged two to five originates from ultra-processed foods, which have long been associated with an increased risk of developing obesity and other non-communicable diseases.
The report comes at a time when the UK is facing a cost of living crisis that is affecting the price of food in particular. Recent data has revealed that families with children, especially those with children under the age of four, are particularly affected by the cost of living crisis and experience a higher prevalence of food insecurity. Due to soaring food prices, many families rely on ready-made meals, which are often ultra-processed, in order to reduce expenses.
By utilizing marketing techniques such as featuring cartoon characters on packaging, the industry presents its products as desirable to children, despite lacking the nutritional benefits of less processed foods. The First Steps Nutrition Trust report also highlights that marketing practices can convince families that pre-packaged food is superior to meals prepared from fresh ingredients.
72 percent of children between the ages of seven and nine months consume a commercial meal as one of their main daily meals. The majority of infants in the UK are deprived of the advantages of healthier eating habits, including exposure to various food textures and the consumption of unprocessed foods.