Ultra-processed foods, diet quality, and health using the NOVA classification system

Carlos Augusto Monteiro Geoffrey Cannon Mark Lawrence Maria Laura da Costa Louzada and Priscila Pereira Machado
Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO)
Resource type:
Reports and discussion papers

The significance of industrial processing, and in particular techniques and ingredients developed or created by modern food science and technology, on the nature of food and on the state of human health, is generally understated. This is evident in international and national policies and strategies designed to improve population nutrition and health, in dietary recommendations, and in public policies and actions guided by such recommendations. Until recently it has also been neglected in epidemiological and experimental studies concerning diet, nutrition and health.  

Acknowledging that ‘the over-reliance on processed foods, especially energy-dense foods high in sugar, fat and salt, is gradually displacing home-prepared meals and the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables in typical diets’, FAO has published a technical report to provide guidance to countries and researchers on how to incorporate the collection of information on processed foods into their food consumption surveys (FAO, 2015). In this guidance report, two examples of food classifications based on food processing were described, one developed as part of EPIC (the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) (Slimani, et al., 2009) and NOVA, a food classification system developed by researchers at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil (Monteiro et al., 2010). 

Access the Report here


This resource presents evidence or data but has not been peer reviewed