U.S. Policies Addressing Ultraprocessed Foods, 1980–2022

Jennifer L. Pomeranz, Jerold R. Mande, Dariush Mozaffarian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Ultraprocessed foods are industrial formulations manufactured from substances derived from foods and industrially-produced ingredients and additives. Few countries’ policies directly regulate ultraprocessed food, but several countries’ dietary guidelines suggest eating less ultraprocessed food. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans do not mention the ultraprocessed food category, but the 2025–2030 Advisory Committee is tasked with evaluating research related to ultraprocessed food consumption. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans are used for U.S. food and nutrition policies. It is unknown the extent that federal and state policymakers have already proposed or passed policies addressing ultraprocessed foods. Methods: Research was conducted using Lexis+ into federal and state statutes, bills, resolutions, regulations, and proposed rules, and Congressional Research Services reports to identify policymaking related to highly processed and ultraprocessed food from January 1980 through February 2023. Results: This research identified 25 policy actions (8 federal, 17 state) proposed or passed between 1983 and 2022 (22 of them, 2011–2022). The most common topic area related to children's nutrition (n=14), and a prevalent theme related to food prices. Only 1 policy defined ultraprocessed food, and 3 policies sought to address the broader food environment by providing incentives to small retailers to stock healthy foods. Conclusions: Addressing ultraprocessed food in U.S. policy activity is quite recent, with few policies directly targeting ultraprocessed foods but rather discussing them as contrary to healthy diets. Internationally, ultraprocessed foods have been directly integrated into national dietary guidelines and school food programs. These policies are consistent with emerging U.S. policy activity and may provide information for future policymaking in the U.S.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1134-1141
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of preventive medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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