Unsurprisingly, there is no uniform and precise definition or criteria of what industrialized & processed foods are. The ambiguity mainly serves the food industry.
If you look for definitions of processed and industrialized food, you will find many definitions that differ from each other.
- Most definitions of processed and industrialized foods try to distinguish between whole and natural foods, lightly processed foods, and highly processed foods. Yet, the average consumer will often find it challenging to understand the category of the food they are consuming.
Industrialized & processed foods definitions. (Wikipedia)
- "Convenience food, or tertiary processed food, is food that is commercially prepared (often through processing) to optimize ease of consumption." (Wikipedia)
- "Industrial food has 4 references: Convenience food, Food industry, Factory farming, Intensive crop farming." (Wikipedia)
These definitions are quite simplistic, without going into details at all!
Highly processed food.
It is challenging to separate the criteria between processed and industrial foods in practice, as they are intertwined.
- Food production is one long process ranging from growing food from animals and plants, picking, slaughtering, collecting, transporting, packing, preparing, cooling, processing, packaging, storing, and distributing.
- Processed food criteria do not concern how to prepare food at home before eating, but the entire production chain before it reaches the shelf.
Processed and industrialized food suggested broad and stringent definitions & main criteria.
Food that meets one or more of the following criteria may be considered processed or industrialized food. (Rank is a separate exam)
- After undergoing a deep freeze, raw or ready-to-eat food, baking, frying, steaming, or other heating over high heat.
- The primary test is the degree of damage caused to each product's nutrients individually, during freezing, cooling, or heating to high heat. We are taking into account the shelf life of the product.
- Food and beverages in their final serving form, containing substances that are not wholly natural, such as artificial sweeteners, artificial emulsifiers, solidified vegetable oils, trans fats, artificial flavors, colorants, preservatives, and more.
- Animal, and plant nutrients, grown under conditions that are not their optimal conditions in nature. Such as:
- Animal foods that have received growth hormones, antibiotics, foods that target unnatural obesity, for the specific animal. Various unneeded chemicals.
- Plant foods are grown under conditions that impair product quality. Such as food that has undergone chemical spraying, or harmful biological treatment, growing produce in untreated wastewater, growing in poor soil that is not suitable for the specific crop.
- Food packed in tin cans (leaking), smoked food. (Smoking may contain unhealthy chemicals)
Under the strict definitions I have presented - most of the foods we eat are processed and industrialized to one degree or another. Unfortunately, this is indeed the reality, but at the moment, in the absence of objective indicators, it isn't easy to quantify these essential indicators.
How will you know to distinguish between beneficial or less harmful foods?
Unfortunately, in the absence of definitions or simple criteria and proper labeling, you must have sound logic, senses, and experience.
- When you see a list of ingredients that are unnatural and unfamiliar - it's probably industrial food. Whether this is lightly industrialized food or not will be difficult to determine without a more comprehensive examination.
- The labels on most food products are often not read-friendly and contain various ingredients that do not indicate to users the risk inherent in them. If you thought the labels were for public benefit, the answer is no! Purpose of labels to protect manufacturers.
- There are attempts around the world to improve the labeling of harmful products. However, the labeling is relatively simplistic based on partial criteria, without an orderly methodology.
- The food industries are among the richest in the world; they put enormous pressure on politicians who do not support legislation that would mark unhealthy products; they fear for their profits.
- Whole and natural foods include mainly organic or non-organic fruits and vegetables, routes, sprouts, mushrooms, legumes, berries, nuts, and beans. (Usually not genetically modified), or animal products are grown on natural pasture, without any unnatural additives.
- Lightly processed foods. (With good nutritional values) - Fruits and vegetables cut and frozen, sourdough bread with wholemeal flours (such as rye and spelled), yogurt (preferably goat's milk), or sheep's cheese without additives or any preservatives. Freedom eggs, deep-sea fish, beef or pork, fed on grass, and natural foods only.
- Industrialized and processed foods whose consumption can be harmful to our health - Minced meat (not ground in our presence), pizzas with cheese substitutes, low-fat beef dairy products, pies, and ready-made cakes containing large amounts of unnatural sweeteners, corn syrup, powdered ice creams.
- Soft drinks, including diet drinks.
- Foods to avoid altogether - Pastries, bagels, cakes, snacks that contain a high percentage of trans fat, margarine (solidified vegetable oil), recycled oils, burnt, etc.,
Is it possible to improve the health quality of existing processed food products?
The answer is "yes," - but their price will probably rise, and their shelf life will be lower.
- There are manufacturers (usually small ones) that produce quality food only from mainly natural products. The problem is that these products are much more expensive than industrial ones, and their shelf life is shorter.
- As long as regulators do not enforce reader-friendly labeling of the food products, the food industry has no incentive to move to healthier products. (which will be much more expensive and with a shorter shelf life.)
- The food industry does not see the public good before it; corporate profitability is more important.
- The main culprits are the various regulators and the politicians who submit to the dictates' food & beverage industries, knowing clearly that the public good is being harmed.
Processed Food Documentary - Processed Food vs. Nutritional Needs.
Industrialized and processed food has many side effects not fully known to the public.
- Highly toxic to the body, causing severe inflammations throughout the body. (Affecting many organs.)
- Processed foods are making us gain weight much faster than the same equal calories of natural foods.
- It causes a heavy load on the liver & kidneys.
- Processed food is not suitable for tissue-regeneration, affecting health and even older than usual appearance.
- Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Due to processed foods & beverages Type 2, diabetes has become an epidemic in China.
- The Chinese diet, even today, is not very rich in sugars.
- The number of diabetes type 2 patients rose from about 20 million in 2000 to about 110 million in 2015 and a forecast of about 150 million in 2040. By 1980, type 2 diabetes in China was an uncommon disease.
- The leading cause is transitioning from a plant-based diet to a highly processed and industrialized animal protein diet.
- Fifteen years is too short to allow for genetic & lifestyle changes; the most notable dietary change in the period under consideration is a dramatic consumption increase in meat, dairy, pastries, and fast-food. Chinese cuisine is based mainly on frying; the switch to cheaply refined oils have turned them into trans fats.
The Chinese have been eating rice for many generations, at a relatively high dose, often three times a day. Rice has a medium-high glycemic index and insulin index. The outbreak of type 2 diabetes was not due to increased rice consumption but rather processed and industrialized foods.