A Soil Association (SA) investigation has revealed that the NHS Food Scanner app has been recommending ultra-processed junk food to families despite its link to life-threatening health risks.

The SA says the NHS Food scanner app – marketed as a tool to help consumers make healthier choices – has been describing biscuits, fizzy drinks, instant noodles, cakes, chocolate puddings and crisps as ‘good choices’ for a healthy diet, often marking energy drinks with a ‘High-Five’ status.

The Government’s ‘poor advice’ is ‘near criminal’, says the SA, and only benefits ‘the food corporations profiting from these junk foods’.

When the SA tested the app – which has been downloaded more than half a million times – with the help of parents and carers it found that 80% of sample products bearing the ‘Good Choice’ badge or similar endorsed ultra-processed foods which are linked to life-shortening health issues.

The organization has launched a petition urging the Government to stop promoting unhealthy foods as healthy options.

The SA’s campaign coordinator, Cathy Cliff, is calling for ‘true leadership’ and updated public dietary advice: “We are shocked to see the Government not only ignoring the health risks around ultra-processed foods but actively encouraging families to consume them. It seems like the Government is more concerned about corporate profits than children’s health.

“When every penny counts, it is near criminal that families are being misled to waste money on junk food that doesn’t fill you up with anything other than health risks.

“The Government’s dietary advice is severely out of date and its failure to provide good advice is putting us all at risk. It is wrong that fizzy drinks and crisps are being promoted to children.

“The Government is taking the biscuit. We are calling for them to cut the crap – stop telling families that ultra-processed is a good choice and show true leadership by helping us all to eat better.

“Other countries like France, Chile and Brazil are taking action to make it easier for people to eat less of these unhealthy foods – why is the UK dragging its feet?”

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Having spent the early part of career putting her BA (Hons) in Media Writing to use as a freelancer writer across a number of industries – from wellbeing, food and travel to design and events – Rosie Greenaway’s post as editor of Natural Products News and Natural Beauty News began in 2017. In 2018 she co-launched NPN’s 30 under 30 initiative, is a regular presenter and speaker on industry panels, is a judge of several awards schemes in food and beauty (from the Soil Association’s BOOM Awards to the Who’s Who in Green Beauty Scandinavia) and acts as an Advisory Board Member for the Sustainable Beauty Coalition.