I thoroughly enjoyed this newsletter. You alerted me to some studies with which I was unfamiliar. I was particularly intrigued by those on the traffic light system and the one of production of fruits and vegetables.
The traffic light system (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2737840) is superior to the Nova classification scheme (https://world.openfoodfacts.org/nova) in that the former is based on the actual content of the food itself while the latter is based primarily on the presence or absence of a long list of FDA-approved food additives. The colors of the traffic light are based on three positive characteristics (main ingredient is a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, lean protein, or low-fat dairy product) and two negative characteristics (saturated fat or total calories). A green light denoted a food with more positive characteristics than negative ones. A yellow light went to products with equal positive and negative characteristics, and a red light was assigned to foods with more negative than positive characteristics. The two exceptions were water and diet beverages which were both designated with green lights. I carefully read the article and the one that proceeded it to determine what cutoffs were for saturated fat and calories in a product, but did not find that information. Some key differences in the two classification systems the traffic light would color diet sodas and a bran breakfast cereal green while Nova would consider both to be ultra-processed. I would like more information on which products rated red, yellow and green lights.
Production of fruits and vegetables (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(19)30095-6/fulltext) confirmed what I had suspected for a long time but lacked data to support it. I am not sure why lentils and beans were excluded from qualifying as vegetables as they are an important source of nutrients in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions around the world. I also question the exclusion of starchy root vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and cassava. I would go along with the elimination of French fries, but starchy vegetables in other forms can be important contributors to a healthy diet. I noted that an increase in fruit and vegetable production without a decrease in food waste contributes to global climate change. I also noted the concluding sentence in the study, “Many of these interventions could be in the shape of investments in research and development to develop new and improved processing, storage and distribution technologies but could also include changes to labeling regulations (eg, use-by dates), and, more broadly, the promotion of new markets for by-products to encourage a more circular economy.” Problems associated with food waste are issues my blog has taken very seriously in both a recent post (https://processedfoodsite.com/2019/07/25/reducing-food-waste-a-systems-level-approach-by-susan-chen-lily-yang/) and one I did two years ago (https://processedfoodsite.com/2017/06/21/food-waste-from-two-different-perspectives/).