Health Foods, Junk Foods — All Processed

Nestlé (the food manufacturing giant based in Switzerland) has just announced its plan to expand into the realm of health food.

According to the NYT:

Nestlé announced the creation of Nestlé Health Science as well as a research body, the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences, “to pioneer a new industry between food and pharma.”

It said the two bodies would develop nutritional products to help prevent and treat conditions like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, which are increasingly placing a burden on Western health care systems….

So, is there anything surprising, any contradiction in the idea of the makers of Aero bars also producing health food? Well, to start with, Nestlé is already a maker of baby foods, a category in which nutrition is considered paramount. But more generally, the move makes sense because, after all, health foods (as opposed to “healthy foods”) are just another category of processed foods. Given how hard it’s turning out to get people to eat their veggies, it’s not that hard to imagine a future in which the world is dominated by two kinds of processed food: processed junk food, and processed health food.

Now, I’m not entirely cynical about the kinds of high-tech nutritional products Nestlé is talking about; it may well be that science is going to do great things in the area of functional foods. But if you’re interested in understanding the food industry, it seems to me that it’s essential to understand the reasons companies are attracted to food processing — with all its potential for efficiency, innovation, and customization — as opposed to simply growing and shipping stuff like carrots and broccoli.

About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
This entry was posted in health claims, industrial, junk food, nutrition, science. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Health Foods, Junk Foods — All Processed

  1. ML Wilson says:

    Wow, it seems almost like a contradiction, but I suppose even a small step in the ‘right’ direction is better than none at all.

    I would still venture to say that steering clear of even processed ‘health’ food is a good choice, especially since there are so many other choices available to us, if people would just slloooowwww doooowwwwwn a bit to take notice of them!

  2. The term processed foods have really goten a bad rap. Not all processed foods are unhealthy. The definition is: foods that have been altered from their natural state for safety reasons and for convenience. The methods used for processing foods include canning, freezing, refrigeration, dehydration and aseptic processing. If you buy frozen or pre-cut vegetables in a store they have also been processed. I do agree that certain foods that have high amounts of salt, fat, or sugar added to them during processing may not be healthy choices; however, are portion sizes are more of the problem!

  3. Brooke:

    I agree. Processing has got a bad rap — I guess because processing makes it so easy for food companies to tweak the flavour of their food by adding cheap, unhealthy sugar, salt, etc. But you’re right that it’s a huge overgeneralization to think of processed food as all bad. It better not be all bad — I suspect it’s simply impossible to feed 7 billion people without some processing!


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