Ultra processed foods - unveiling the microbial world and more

Ultra processed foods - unveiling the microbial world and more

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Join us for a comprehensive exploration of the world of ultra-processed foods, including a deep dive into their microbiology.

Whilst there is no universally agreed or official definition for ultra-processed foods, the most well known classification is the NOVA system. It categorises all food products into ‘Unprocessed and minimally processed’, ‘Processed culinary ingredients’, ‘Processed’, or ‘Ultra-processed’ (which have generally undergone extensive industrial processing and usually contain multiple ingredients not used when cooking at home).

There is a widespread misconception that all ultra-processed foods are unhealthy, whereas nutritional value is not influenced by level of processing.

Taking plant-based foods as an example, whilst they tend to have a high number of ingredients, many offer higher fibre and less saturated fat than meat counterparts, as well as being without the same zoonotic disease and microbial resistance risks. However, established practices used to manage pathogen risks in meat products may not be applicable or effective for their plant-based or alternative protein counterparts.

This seminar will therefore cover plant-based meat, cultured meat, microbial risks and outbreaks associated with UPFs, and much more.

Who should attend

Microbiologists, Product Development Specialists, Buyers, Food Analysts etc.

Event Director

Fiona Cawkell

Provisional programme

Time Presentation
08:45 Registration and arrival refreshments
09:10 Welcome and Chairman's introduction
Rob Butler, bioMérieux
09:25 Microbiological risks associated with plant-based meat alternatives
Sabina O'Reilly, Campden BRI
The rapid growth of plant-based has outpaced scientific understanding of their microbiological safety. Although plant-based meat alternatives mimic their meat counterparts, the plant proteins they contain may affect microbial flora differently. This presentation will represent a snapshot of the research that Campden BRI is currently conducting on the safety and quality of plant-based meat alternatives.
10:05 Outbreaks associated with ultra-processed foods
Anaïs Painset, UKHSA
Outbreaks related to food poisoning have always been a cause of concern from Public Health perspective but also carried an economic burden for society and food business operators. With the advance in technology in whole genome sequencing, we are now better at detecting outbreak related to foodborne pathogens. Let’s explore how genomics was used in outbreak and in particular in ultra processed food.
10:45 Refreshment break and opportunity to visit the exhibits
11:05 Processing the discourse - how to understand the "UPF" debate
Jenny Chapman, Food Systems Researcher
"Aren't they made in a factory?" "Hmm, it's got lots of ingredients…" "It's really ultra-processed" Have you heard this recently? "Ultra processing" has blazed into our vocabulary in recent years and has generated a lot of debate. Essential to understanding the discourse is some important context. Why was the term coined? What is its definition? How and when should the term be used? Why are some foods in the spotlight? What can science tell us, and what can it not?
11:45 Hot news! An update on our sponsor’s products
12:15 Lunch and opportunity to view the exhibits
13:20 UPF- How to understand what ingredients do, and how to replace them
Michael Adams, Campden BRI
This presentation will tackle some of the issues facing the food and drink industry if they want to reformulate their products to be “less UPF”. Many ingredients have functions that mean they are essential for many properties, such as shelf life, taste, texture and more, and removing them can be extremely challenging. Included in the presentation will also be how to understand what ingredients do, details of the some of the most complex challenges, and some easier wins for the industry.
14:00 E number safety
Áine Hearty, Exponent.com
This presentation will provide an overview of what ‘E numbers’ (food additives) are, their vital role in the foods we consume, how they are indicated on a food label, and how they are regulated from a safety perspective in the UK and the EU. The presentation will also cover the important role food additives have in foods consumed as part of a balanced diet and will also aim to dispel some of the common myths about E numbers.
14:40 Refreshment break and opportunity to visit the exhibits
14:55 Cultivated meat: is this the future?
Craig Leadley, Campden BRI
This presentation will outline the basics of cultivated meat production, the drivers fuelling the interest in cultivated meat and some of the challenges that need to be overcome before its full potential can be realised:
  • 1. The need for change in the food system
  • 2. What is cultivated meat
  • 3. Challenges for scaling of cultivated meat:
    • a) Cost and production volumes
    • b) Consumer acceptance
    • c) Regulatory hurdles
15:25 Ultra-processed foods: an insight into the current regulatory and public policy environment
Ed Allen, Campden BRI
Ultra-processed foods have emerged as a subject of discussion within the food and beverage industry. Various organisations and governments are actively seeking solutions to the existing regulatory gaps. In this presentation, we will explore the origins of the term ‘Ultra-processed foods’ and examine the efforts undertaken by governments to understand if public health policy needs to adapt. Furthermore, we will identify the considerations that food and beverage businesses need to review when evaluating their product portfolio.
16:00 Q&A and Chairman’s closing comments


Sabina O'Reilly, Campden BRI

Sabina Joined Campden BRI in 2019 as a laboratory technician in Microbiological Analytical Services after completing a BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of Plymouth.

Sabina is now working in Microbiology Safety and spoilage as a project manager specialising in challenge and shelf-life testing of a wide range of food and drink products.

Sabina is a Research Scientist MRes apprentice with Aston University which involves conducting a multidisciplinary research project focusing on the safety, quality, and functionality of plant-based meat alternatives.

Anaïs Painset, UKHSA

Anaïs Painset is working for the UK Health Security Agency (previously known as Public Health England). She is the Lead Bioinformatician for gastrointestinal pathogens within Gastro Bacterial Reference Unit at UKHSA. Since joining the organisation in 2015, she was part of the implementation of the WGS pipelines for gastrointestinal pathogens. She has expertise in analysing WGS data to support pathogen surveillance, inform outbreak investigation in association with phylogeny. Her interest are on phylogenomic and gene profiling (genotypic AMR, virulence).

Jenny Chapman, Food Systems Researcher

Jenny Chapman has a degree in Biology from the University of Oxford, a Masters in Taxonomy from the Natural History Museum and a lifelong love of the natural world. She has a desire to solve the world's most pressing problems and is passionate about using science and evidence to reduce suffering and improve the lives of humans and non-human animals. Jenny was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2023 to investigate the adoption of safe, healthy, sustainable and ethical protein sources. Her report - Processing the discourse over plant-based meat - was published in 2024 and has featured in New Scientist, GreenQueen and FoodNavigator. Since the publication of her report she has worked with organisations involved in food systems transformation to help them navigate the "UPF" debate.

Michael Adams, Campden BRI

Mike has worked in the food and beverage industry since 2006. Before joining us at Campden BRI in 2016, Mike worked in technical, quality and R&D roles within Mission Foods, PepsiCo, and Holland & Barrett. Mike studied for a BSc (Hons) in Microbiology at the University of Manchester, graduating in 2005.

Mike’s team support various clients, providing innovation services, research and analysis across a wide range of products, using our state-of-the-art laboratories and pilot plant facilities.

Áine Hearty, Exponent.com

Áine Hearty holds a MSc and a PhD in Public Health Nutrition. Dr Hearty has worked as a food regulatory consultant with Exponent for over 8 years. Dr Hearty has extensive experience in modelling dietary intake data for estimating exposure to food chemicals (including additives, flavourings and food contact material migrants), enzymes, nutrients and novel ingredients. Related to this experience, Dr Hearty has worked extensively on submissions and notifications for regulated products, included food additives and novel foods to regulatory authorities in the UK, EU and the US.

Craig Leadley, Campden BRI

From more than 30 years in the food and drink industry, the majority of which spent supporting clients and conducting research here at Campden BRI, Craig has a vast range of knowledge and experience, as well as extensive industrial and academic connectivity.

Over his career he has built our multi-partner collaborations, developed grant applications, overseen our research programme, and been involved in food preservation and manufacturing (with a particular focus on thermal processing and emerging technologies, about which he has published a number of books and journals).

Craig supports companies with accessing grants, and is currently focused on start-up and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through grant funding.

Ed Allen, Campden BRI

Ed holds an MSc in Human Nutrition and Metabolism from the University of Aberdeen and Executive MBA from HULT Ashridge Business School. Ed has 10 years of experience within the food, beverage, and food supplement industry, including regulatory compliance and nutritional review of current and innovative products and brands. Ed graduated from his Executive MBA in 2023, which included completing a 6-month work-based project on developing a sustainability-led brand strategy. At Campden BRI, Ed focuses on identifying future regulatory changes and trends within the nutrition and sustainability policy environment, while providing regulatory consultancy to a wide range of industry partners.

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