Junk food should have cigarette-style health warnings: Researchers believe that ultra-processed foods laden in salt, sugar and fat need to be tagged with alerts

  • Researchers say junk food should come with cigarette-style health warnings 
  • According to a new study, ultra-processed foods have become the ‘new’ tobacco. 
  • The UK’s traffic light labels are for food and do not include any figures.

Experts say junk food needs to be covered with health warnings in the same way as cigarette packaging. This is to reduce obesity.

Researchers claimed that consumers are being ‘bamboozled” by firms’ clever marketing techniques to make ultra-processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

The experts suggested that food such as pizza, cake and fizzy drinks, which are not recognized by our grandparents, be marked with clear health warnings.

Junk food ought to carry cigarette-style health warnings on packaging to tackle obesity, experts have said (file photo used)

Experts have stated that junk food should be packaged with cigarette-style warnings to combat obesity (file photo).

We would be alerted to potential dangers such as obesity and diabetes.

The mandatory inclusion of text and photos in cigarette packets is required, including warnings about health hazards such as images of cancerous lungs.

The current traffic lights labels on food in the UK highlight fat, sodium, and calories.

BMJ Global Health published a study yesterday that found ultra-processed foods to be the “new tobacco” and recommended stricter regulations regarding their packaging.

Last year, ministers launched an anti-obesity strategy which will see a pre-9pm TV ban on junk food adverts (pictured in a file photo)

Ministers unveiled an anti-obesity strategy last year. It will include a ban on TV advertising junk food before 9pm (image in file photo).

A box of cookies might include text warning consumers that they are highly processed and high in fat, salt, sugar, or both.

Researchers concluded that these foods were ‘associated positively with positive emotions’ because of ‘decades worth persuasive marketing.

Trish Cotter (New York-based public charity Vital Strategies) is the lead author. She said that the product’s industrial processing and the combination of flavours, colours, emulsifiers, and flavours they include to add flavour and texture makes it highly palatable, and can be addictive. This in turn causes poor eating habits.

A sugar tax on soft drinks introduced in 2018 led firms to reformulate recipes, which in turn led to reduced sugar consumption (file photo used)

Companies were forced to reformulate their recipes in response to a 2018 sugar tax that was introduced to soft drinks.

Miss Cotter stated that these products pose a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as stroke, depression, and even death.

Ultra-processed goods are those products that can be eaten immediately, have more than five ingredients, and last a very long time.

This is why the obesity rate has risen.

Are you a fan of chocolate? Lighten up!

Try turning up the lights if you are finding yourself reaching into your Quality Street tin too much this Christmas.

A study by more than 300 people found that sweet and salty food taste better when they are viewed under dimmed light.

The reason popcorn and sweets at the cinema are so tasty could be explained by this. Participants were asked to eat a square (or more) of milk chocolate. Half the participants were required to wear tinted glasses to simulate a darkened room. It was rated higher by those wearing glasses.

Similar results were found for biscuits, cheese and crackers. This study was published in Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services. It concluded that low vision can increase our sense of smell and taste.


Ministers unveiled an anti-obesity strategy last year that includes a ban on advertising junk food in TV.

In 2018, a sugar tax was placed on soft drinks. This led to firms reformulating recipes which, in turn, led to lower sugar consumption.

The Prime Minister did not support a suggestion to tax sugar wholesale and salt purchased by manufacturers.