A study from the University of Surrey and the European Food Information Council found that food classification systems are contradicting each other.

Food classification systems categorize foods according to their “level of processing”. This is used to predict diet quality and health outcomes, and to inform guidelines and in-product development.Source: UnsplashSource: Unsplash

The team reviewed over 100 scientific papers to examine if different criteria exist in classification systems for processed foods.

The results showed that most classification system criteria are not aligned with existing scientific evidence on nutrition and food processing. This results in food processing systems that conflict with each other. Researchers say that could be due to different perspectives and intentions of the developers behind these classification systems.

The team noted that there is a failure to include the measurements of nutritional content with some systems. This can be confusing to the consumers because it is in contrast with nutrient profiling. Generally, these classification systems focus more on industrially processed foods. The team believes that this is due to the assumption that homemade food is healthier than processed food, which is not inherently true.

Categorization of ultra-processed food and what that means was also examined by the team. There is confusion and disagreement in the food industry around this term. The evidence suggests that ultra-processed foods could relate to obesity by energy density and food properties, but further research needs to be done to confirm this theory.

The study says there are no clear agreements among food systems as to what makes food more or less processed in relation to healthy eating advice. This ultimately makes it difficult for consumers to make healthy eating decisions.

This study was published in Trends in Food Science and Tech.