Malton and Ultra Processed Foods - A Point of View




In the Dickensian alleyway outside our workshop, our scented waftings are complemented by tempting aromas from an independent coffee roaster, blended with lovely, tangy happenings at Malton’s famous cookery school, The Cook’s Place.  We locals call it ‘Fragrant Alley’.

Just around the corner are numerous cafés, patisseries, a world famous macaron maker, an artisan baker, two butchers, a fresh fishmonger, two delicatessens, a vegan traiteur, a purveyor of artisan whiskeys and local gins, an immense greengrocers, a health food store, a small wine merchant, a craft brewery and numerous bars, pizzerias and restaurants. All these producers and retailers are independently owned businesses; not a MacDonald’s, nor a Pizza Hut and not a single Weatherspoons in sight. Last summer several of our local producers were visited by the incomparable Hairy Bikers and recently there was a sense of melancholy around the town, following the sad loss of the delightful Dave Myers.  

Popping out at lunchtime to ‘pick up a few bits for tea’ is not a problem here in Malton. Each month, there’s a food market in the town and periodically, larger Food Festivals, a foodie marathon and numerous other eating and drinking themed events too. For the local population and visitors, unlike many similar towns across the UK, there are alternatives to the nearby supermarket chains and importantly, numerous opportunities to choose alternatives to Ultra Processed Foods (UPFs).

Yet more damning evidence emerged recently, from a study published in the British Medical Journal that UPFs are ruining the health of the UK, whose population are reported to rely on UPFs for 50% of their food consumption. UPFs were linked to 32 adverse health conditions, including cardiometabolic conditions, a range of common mental disorders and increased mortality. So if the long term health of the nation relies so heavily on reducing the consumption of UPFs, why are towns like Malton, with such extensive availability of alternatives to UPFs so unusual across the United Kingdom?

Moreover, why do Malton’s local, independent business owners and producers, faced with swingeing cost increases and a suite of UK fiscal policies which favour corporate producers, retailers and other ‘big business’, feel overlooked by central government and face such a struggle to survive?  

Big business, with its relentless pressure to satisfy institutional shareholders’ demands, will continue to opt for low cost ingredients, purposefully encourage excessive consumption and aggressively market their UPF wares. Independent producers and retailers however, offer a solution. Harnessing the value these businesses can bring to the long term health of the nation demands an intelligent and creative approach from government and a switch from short-term sugar-tax style interventions to long term investment in a food production and retailer network which encourages small scale, high quality production and distribution.

Learn more about Malton, Yorkshire's Food Capital 


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