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Avdesh ThassuAvdesh Thassu
MPharm (Nat. Chem.); MBA(Mkt.)
Associate Vice President
Global Regulatory Affairs,
Emami Limited

chandra mohan nandiChandra mohan nandi
MSc. (Organic Chem.)
Deputy Manager,
Global Regulatory Affairs,
Emami Limited

Abstract : Consumer awareness of the health benefits o fFood processing which generally define that the basic preparation of foods, the alteration of a food product into another form (as in making preserves from fruit), and preservation and packaging techniques furthermore, it may bring to consumers mind that all kind of packaged food item containing many ingredients, perhaps even artificial colours, Preservatives,flavours, or other chemical additives. Often referred to as convenience or pre-prepared foods, processed foods are suggested to be a contributor to the obesity epidemic and rising prevalence of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. But it is required as agriculture and animal husbandry blowout, it was essential to preserve all category of foods to avoid losses because of decomposition and to survive during times of any kind of crisis. Food processing is taking a raw product and turning it into an ingredient, like turning vanilla beans into vanilla extract, whereas food manufacturers purchase ingredients and use them within a product, like taking the vanilla extract and using it to make cookies. What we eat has a big impact on our health, and ultra-processed foods like candy, soft drinks, pizza and chips do not contain enough of the beneficial nutrients that the body requires. The more ultra-processed foods we eat, the poorer the overall nutritional quality of our diet. Processed foods are mainly praised for their convenience, palatability, and novelty. However, their healthfulness has increasingly come under scrutiny.

Introduction : Food processing plays an essential role in providing edible, safe and nutritious foods to the population, and in food preservation. However, as the topic is complex, with many different types of processes that may bring both risks and benefits depending on the context. Processing can also lead to the formation of toxic compounds, such as heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, resulting in browning and other desirable sensorial changes. There is reportedly negativity and misconceptions regarding processed foods in the media and by consumers. Furthermore, concerns about the health risks of industrial processing, diet quality, and chronic diseases, have led to the development of food classification systems which distinguish among different categories of processed foods.

Classification of Processed Food : The following reference was adapted from the NOVA Food Classification system, which was intended by Center for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition, School of Public Health, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. NOVA helps to classify foods according to the extent and purpose of the processing they undergo.

nova food classification system

Food processing as identified by NOVA involved physical, biological and chemical processes that occur after foods are separated from nature, and before they are consumed or used in the preparation of dishes. Under this classification:
Group 1: Unprocessed or minimally processed food
Group 2: Processed culinary ingredients like oils, fats
Group 3: Processed foods
Group 4: Ultra-processed foods
In this article, we will discuss specifically Group 3 and Group 4.
Processed foods are products, whichuse salt, sugar, oil, or other substances (Group 2) added to natural or minimally processed foods (Group 1) to preserve or to make them more appetizing. They are usually consumed as a part or as a side dish in culinary preparations made using natural or minimally processed foods. Most processed foods have two or three ingredients. For example, canned or bottled legumes or vegetables preserved in salt or vinegar, or by pickling. It can be processed meat/processed fish/processed beef etc.
Ultra-processed foods are made mostly from substances extracted from foods like Natural Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, oils, fats, sugar, starch, and proteins, derived from food constituents, or synthesized in laboratories from food substrates or other organic sources. Manufacturing techniques include extrusion, moulding and pre-processing. Beverages may be ultra-processed. Group 1 foods are a small proportion of, or are even absent from, ultra-processed products. For example, sweets, or salty packaged snacks.

what makes processed foods popularWhat makes processed foods popular : Though not all the processed foods are healthier to human, still are some reasons which makes processed foods so popular in nowadays. If we look into the statistics aside, we will find that majority of the contribution to the consumption of processed andultra-processed foods in the diet. The following reasons may be attributed to the readily increasing dependency on processed foods globally.

a) The Convenience of Processed Food : As we all know processed foods and fast food are generally more convenient. This accessibility is more appealing, especially who work long hours. Rapid production and easy storage are the main reasons for the popularity of processed food. Itsavailability in every convenience store, supermarket and chain like McDonald's can reliably be found outside many schools and workplaces. This combination of availability and convenienceresultsin so many negative health effects gradually due to growing unhealthy lifestyle.
b) The Affordability of Processed Food: Cost, time, variety, are important factorsin the increasing acceptance of all kind of processed food. It tends to be extremely cheap as compare to the harvested food items which require further input of money and processing time. When processed food is so affordable and convenient, it becomes easy to forgo nutritious food. The high sodium and sugar content may not be good for humans, but they make these foods appealing to the taste buds.

What makes processed foods unhealthy—“SOCIAL AWARENESS” :
Healthy Food Habit Makes Structure of Our Body
Food acceptability directly relates to the interaction food has with the consumer at a given moment in time. The acceptance or rejection of food entirely depends on whether it corresponds to consumer expectations and needs. The process through which an individual accepts or rejects food is considered to be multi-dimensional. The structure of food acceptability is both variable and dynamic among individuals in different groups and the same individuals in different time periods and contexts. Healthy food habit which includes the kind of good food, which is well accepted to the individual body structure. Ingredients like salt, sugar, fat, moreover food colours, and food preservatives are sometimes added to processed foods to make their flavour more attractive and to extend their shelf life, or in some cases to contribute to the food's structure.Buying processed foods can lead to people eating more than the recommended amounts of sugar, salt and fat as they may not be aware about how much they need toeat.These foods can also be higher in calories due to the high amounts of added sugar or fat in them. People have to be well aware about their eating habit, has to go with their body accepts, has to look into the labels of processed food, need to check the nutrition details, & preservative, colorants with their mentioned percentages. Also, need to focus on packaging of that food. What type of packaging is used in the foods, whether it will react with the foods or with the environment t maintain ecological balance that needs to be evaluated properly. This awareness for not only people but also it is the jurisdiction of Govt. authorities too. They need to be more vigilant on such things. 

Health Risks of All Kinds of Processed/Ultra-processedFoods
There are many potential health effects of processed/ultra-processed foods, including:
• Increased cancer risk. A 5-year study of over 100,000 people found that every ultra-processed food was associated with a 12% higher risk for cancer.
• Too much sugar, sodium and fat. Highly processed foods often include higher levels of added sugar, sodium and fat. These ingredients make the food tastier, but too much leads to serious health issues like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
• Lacking in nutritional value. High-processing strips of many foods of their basic nutrients, result in many foods today being fortified with fiber, vitamins and minerals.
• Calorie dense and addicting. It is very easy to overdo unhealthy food and consume more calories than we realize. For example, an Oreo cookie contains about 50 calories, while an entire cup of green beans is only 44 calories. Processed foods like these are also designed to stimulate our brain’s “feel-good” dopamine center.
• Quicker to digest. Processed foods are easier to digest than unprocessed foods. That means our bodyburns less energy digesting them. It is estimated that we burn half as many calories digesting processed foods compared to unprocessed foods.
• Full of artificial ingredients. There are about 5,000 substances that get added to our food, and may have never been tested by anyone other than the company using them. That includes additives to change colour, texture, flavour and odour as well as ingredients like preservatives and sweeteners.
How can eat processed foods as part of a healthy diet?Reading nutrition labels can help out to choose processed products and keep a check on fat, salt and sugar content.
Most pre-packed foods have the nutrition information on the front, back or side of the packaging.Differences in nutrient profiles between vegetarian and nonvegetarianprocessed foodmay reflect the nutritional differences that may contribute to the development of disease.

guideline of food concerning Guideline of food concerning fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar: As per WHO recommendationsreduce the amount of total fat intake to less than 30% of total energy intake to help prevent unhealthy weight gain. Lower the risk of developing non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancersby reducing saturated fats, found in fatty meat, butter, coconut oil, cream, cheese, and ghee to less than 10% of total energy intake, reducing total trans fats (found in processed food, fast food, snack food, fried food, frozen pizza, cookies, and margarine) to less than 1% of total energy intake and replacing both with unsaturated fats (found in fish, avocado, nuts, olive oil, soy, canola, sunflower and corn oils).






Reduce your salt consumption to the recommended level of less than 5 gm/day. Most people consume too much sodium through salt (corresponding to an average of 9–12 g of salt/day) and not enough potassium. High sodium consumption with insufficient potassium intake (less than 3.5 g) contributes to high blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of cardiac arrest.







Need to reduce intake of free sugars throughout the life. Free sugars are all sugars added to foods or drinks (e.g. glucose, galactose, fructose, sucrose, or table sugar) as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, and fruit juices.Adults and children, need to reduce their intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. A reduction to less than 5% of total energy intake provides additional health benefits, so need to reduce the intake of free sugars further. Consuming free sugars increases the risk of tooth decay. Excess calories from foods and drinks high in free sugars also contribute to unhealthy weight gain, which can lead to overweight and obesity.


Regulatory Status of Micronutrient Fortification in Southeast Asia:Regulatory status of micronutrient fortification of foods in South East Asia varies greatly between countries. Results from a survey on the regulatory status of micronutrient fortification in 10 ASEAN countries presented at the workshop showed that voluntary fortification with vitamins and minerals is permitted in most countries in South East Asia, with considerable differences in approach in regulating, such as the food vehicle, micronutrient form, minimum and maximum levels, and claims permitted. Mandatory fortification of salt with iodine is present in 8 out of 10 ASEAN countries, and mandatory flour fortification with iron is in place in Indonesia and the Philippines. Fortification of sugar and cooking oil with vitamin A is mandatory in the Philippines, and fortification of unbranded cooking oil with vitamin A will be mandatory in Indonesia from early 2015 onwards. Table 1 presents a summary of mandatory fortification status in ASEAN countries.


Food vehicle




All 10 countries, except Brunei, Singapore, and some parts of Malaysia


Wheat flour



Wheat flour and rice


Vitamin A

Condensed, evaporated, and filled milk; margarine


Wheat flour, refined sugar, cooking oil


Condensed milk, margarine


Unbranded cooking oil


Vitamin D



Folic acid and B vitamins

Wheat flour





Wheat flour


Import Regulation of processed food with special reference to South East Asia: The regulations regarding processed food are relatively rigorous in most of ASEAN countries. We are taking a few examples.
In Singapore, importers must adhere to quality assurance procedures that are acceptable to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). To enforce this, AVA demands the importers submit certified-true-copy documents, from the food safety authority of the country of origin, certifying that the imported food product is manufactured by licensed or regulated premises. The processed food products being assessed for import into Singapore will also be subjected to Sale the of Food Act. All imported processed food products are subjected to inspection. Certain food products have been identified through trend studies and classifieds as high-risk products hence, require pre-market assessment such as laboratory testing reports and health certificates to ensure the safety of the products. Health certificates, issued by the authorities of the country of origin must contain the following details:
• Description of product and packaging (including brand, trademark, if any)
• Quantity, by weight
• Name and address of the processing establishment
• Name and address of the consignor
• Name and address of the consignee

In Malaysia,importers are required to ensure the imported food product’s adherence to the Malaysian Food Act 1983. Section 29 of the Food Act provides that the importation of any food which does not comply with the provisions of the Food Act or any regulation made thereunder is prohibited.In addition, importers must also ensure strict adherence to the Malaysian Food Regulations 1985 in respect of the type of food to be imported. Failure of the importers to comply with the regulation governing the importation of manufactured food products shall render the possibility of the importers' license to be canceled. Any kind of failure on the part of the importers of food products to comply with the Food Act for the importation of manufactured food products could result in a fine, imprisonment, or both.
In Indonesia, the only processed food that can be imported into Indonesia is food that already has a Market Authorization Permit. In addition to that, the importer must obtain approval from the Head of BPOM in the form of an Import Information Letter ("SKI").

Conclusion : There is no doubt that at least some processed foods are found in most people’s kitchens. They can be time-savers when preparing meals. From a nutritional standpoint, processed and even ultra-processed foods can provide key nutrients. Some nutrients like protein are naturally retained throughout processing. Processing by certain methods like pasteurization, cooking, and drying can destroy or inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Depending on the degree of processing, many nutrients can be destroyed or removed. Peeling the outer layers of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may remove plant nutrients (phytochemicals) and fiber. Heating or drying foods can destroy certain vitamins and minerals. Although food manufacturers can add back some of the nutrients lost, it is impossible to recreate the food in its original form.If you are deciding whether to include highly processed food in your diet, it may be useful to evaluate its nutritional content and long-term effect on health. An ultra-processed food that contains an unevenly high ratio of calories to nutrients may be considered unhealthy. Based on all the data, we can conclude that, though processed foods are convenient &mouth-watering, we should go with fresh foods rather than processed food in the broader prospect of our health.We, the authors of this article are not against any organization, which are in manufactures of processed foods, rather our main object is to evaluate the pros & cons of processed foods in Asian countries & regulatory portfolio of imported of processed foods in those countries.

References :
1. Floros JD, Newsome R, Fisher W, Barbosa-Canovas GV, Chen H, Dunne P, German JB, Hall RL, Heldman DR, Karwe MV, et al. Feeding the world today and tomorrow: the importance of food science and technology. An IFT Scientific Review. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf 2010;9:572–99.

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