From pot noodles to biscuits: The junk food promoted by NHS 'healthy eating' app trends now
An NHS healthy eating app promotes ultra-processed junk food and describes biscuits, cakes and crisps as a 'good choice', an investigation has found.
Obesity campaigners last night described the revelation as 'astonishing' and demanded an urgent review of the NHS Food Scanner.
The free app, which has been downloaded more than half a million times, regularly recommends users buy ultra-processed products and even endorses instant noodles and an energy drink, the Soil Association discovered.
Ultra-processed food is made using ingredients or processes not found in a typical kitchen and has been linked to cancer, heart disease, depression and early death.
The free app, which has been downloaded more than half a million times, regularly recommends users buy ultra-processed products and even endorses instant noodles and an energy drink, the Soil Association discovered. It also says McVitie's Rich Tea Biscuits and Mr Kipling Bakewell Slices are healthy options
Products endorsed or recommended by the app include biscuits, cakes, crisps, chocolate puddings, fizzy pop, energy drinks and instant noodles
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• Thirty grams of fibre a day. This is the same as eating all of the following: Five portions of fruit and vegetables, two whole-wheat cereal biscuits, two thick slices of wholemeal bread and a large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks), choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including two portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink six to eight cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide
British children have the highest levels of ultra-processed food intake in Europe, with under 14s getting two-thirds of their daily energy intake from this source.
The Government has encouraged parents to download the app to their mobile phone so they can make healthier decisions when food shopping.
Users scan the barcode on products to see how much fat, sugar and salt they contain, with those below a certain threshold awarded a 'Good Choice' badge.
If a product is deemed to be too fatty, sugary or salty, the app suggests 'Smart Swaps' that it considers to be a healthier alternative.
But the probe found health officials are failing to consider the processing food and drink has gone through before certifying them.
Suggested swaps often contain less sugar or fat than the scanned product but a long list of ingredients that would never be found in a home kitchen, such as emulsifiers, additives and artificial sweeteners.
Products endorsed or recommended by the app include biscuits, cakes, crisps, chocolate puddings, fizzy pop, energy drinks and instant noodles.
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said: 'It is astonishing that an NHS healthy eating app is pushing this food without considering how it is produced.
'Everyone needs to eat a bit of fat, sugar and salt but it is how the food is processed that is the real killer. You can't look at these things in isolation.
'The government should be recommending healthy foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, rather than just more junk food with a little less sugar.
'This app needs to be reviewed as it certainly won't improve the nation's health in its current form.'
A Soil Association report into its investigation says a 'growing body of research' has linked ultra-processed