Articles / Talking Junk with Chris van Tulleken

Talking Junk with Chris van Tulleken

Published August 23, 2023

Plus: The perfect August salad, me and some luminaries, and ridiculously beautiful food


This Week’s Marksisms

Food with Mark Bittman: Chris van Tulleken

Our guest on Food today is the fascinating Chris van Tulleken, who has written a book called Ultra-Processed People: The Science Behind Food That Isn’t Food — the non-food that was formerly known as junk, and now is correctly called ultra-processed food (UPF), something Kate and I talk about with Chris.

Chris is part of a new, younger generation of scientists, researchers, journalists, doctors, and academics who are talking about UPF as a plague and an epidemic, and who are doing the research necessary to demonstrate that that’s true. Chris is great, wise, entertaining, and fun in talking about this tragic circumstance we’re all confronted with; he talks articulately about the effects UPF have on us all.

This isn’t a new topic for us, but this is definitely a new and enlightened approach to it—very, very laser focused and really interesting; this is a fast-moving, wonderful conversation that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

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Remember, Oreos and Coca-Cola Are Also Vegan

There’s little to disagree with in this interesting piece about fast food in the Washington Post, but I am repeatedly upset that somehow “vegan” always translates as “healthy.”

It. Does. Not.

Oreos, French fries, and Coke are all vegan; so is all of the stuff in the above photo, taken from the site of one of the operations mentioned in the piece (not to single anyone out) and included under the broad band of “healthier” options.

Big Food will co-opt every word you throw at it; this began with “natural” (it actually began with “safe,” which was before our time—there’s an interesting section in Animal, Vegetable, Junk about how Heinz became the dominant ketchup by claiming other brands were tainted, while theirs was not), continued with “organic,” and now moves along with “vegan.”

Healthy food, whether fast or slow, is relatively unprocessed food, and most fast food is the opposite – ultra-processed. (Listen to our podcast this week!) That makes it unhealthy, basically. You can probably eat it occasionally without much harm (“the dose makes the poison”) but vegan burgers, etc., are still to be considered junk food from every perspective except animal welfare.


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