A year in review for processed food, a resolution and a look ahead

box of Cheerios breakfast cereal
CAUTION!! ultra-processed

Existential threats to humankind and our food supply, food justice, healthy diets, ultra-processed foods and the interface of food science and human nutrition were major themes in my blog in 2019. Global climate change and the threat of plastic, packaging waste captured more press attention this year, and potential solutions seem ever more distant. Will producing food more sustainably and switching to more plant-based products be enough or must we all become vegans?

refrigerated foods in a display case
Dollar store: food desert or food oasis?

Food deserts limit access to fresh produce to too many Americans, but distribution of food within the country is so much more complex than preparing and eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Healthy diets released in recent years have been proposed by an academic, a practitioner, and a geneticist, but what about just avoiding ultra-processed foods. Finally, the gulf between food scientists and nutritionists appears to be growing. The country seems to be moving into ideological camps on food where being right and pointing out the flaws of the opposition has become the norm. Is such a battle going to get us eating healthier and make America thin again?

As I look ahead to a new year which promises to be more tumultuous than the one we are finishing up, I resolve to be less combative as I continue to defend processed food. I will review two new wonderful books written by younger food scientists who have a more optimistic and less defensive attitude about processed food than I do. Am I part of a generation of food scientists not ready to accept reality or is this new generation too naive to understand how the world works? I will also be looking at the messages of nutritionists and the New Food Movement to see if there is some middle ground that can be explored to really solve our problems rather than just argue about them.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Books I will review next year include


pickled herring fridge
Pickled herring at a Polish supermarket.  Photo by Jonathan Katz

I thank all of my readers this year for their encouragement. The site exceeded 8000 views over the year or 3500 more than in 2018. I also appreciate my guest bloggers who provided a different perspective on this topic. Half of the ten most-viewed posts in 2019 were written by guests. Those top-ten posts were:

  1. Processed Food, Disability, and Autonomy by Jonathan Katz
  2. Eat Fat to Burn Fat? The Skinny on the Ketogenic Diet by Erica Kenney
  3. Are we eating real food or edible, foodlike substances?
  4. “Just Trust the Supermarket”: Processed Food from Home, and the Immigrants Who Look for Them by Jonathan Katz
  5. Food waste from two different perspectives
  6. Why are foods processed? Extending shelf life
  7. Plastic Food Packaging is the Answer – So What is the Question? by Aaron L. Brody
  8. Food Safety Challenges in the Modern Food Delivery World by Donald Schaffner
  9. Fear of processed and formulated foods
  10. What makes a processed food an ultra-processed food? How dangerous to our health is ultra-processing?

Next week: Future Foods: How Modern Science Is Transforming the Way We Eat



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