The UK consumes almost four times as much packaged food as fresh food, according to a study of 54 countries’ eating habits.
The data, released by market research organisation Euromonitor, revealed a shift from fresh to packaged food in the most developed countries, the Guardian reported.
Packaged food purchases in the UK accounted for an average of 1,547 calories per person per day in 2015 – the second highest level of any country in the study behind Belgium.
Meanwhile, the UK came second bottom in the list (behind Japan) for the number of calories consumed in fresh food – just 405. This matched an overall trend, with 85 per cent of the countries surveyed eating more calories from packaged food than fresh food.
China, Vietnam and India purchased the lowest number of calories in packaged food, with India buying just 164. Brazil, meanwhile, consumed the most calories per person per day in fresh food, out of the nine major countries in the study.
The findings sparked concern among obesity experts. “Sadly, processed, packaged foods tend to be less healthy,” Dr Tim Lobstein, director of policy at the World Obesity Federation, told the Guardian.
“Better profits can be made from products with a long shelf-life and that can be formulated and branded as a commercial commodity. Fresh and perishable foods have a tough time competing with processed, additive-laden, brightly-packaged products.
“The logic of mass production means that the least healthy foods will often be the cheapest, and will be widely promoted in lower-income urban areas.”
Sara Petersson, nutrition analyst at Euromonitor International, was more optimistic, telling the newspaper that growth in packaged food consumption is not necessarily a bad thing.
“It is kind of the way we are today,” she said. “The food we eat today is convenient. It is fast to consume and we don’t have to prepare it. Much of it is high in salt, sugar and fat but there are so many healthier packaged foods coming out all the time.”