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Food processing - what it is and why it matters



The role of processed foods in a sustainable food system



The role of processed foods in a healthy sustainable diet


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Food Processing FAQ

Food processing is any method used to transform a raw food or ingredient into a food product. Processing, whether it is at home or on an industrial scale, involves all stages of food preparation from the production of a raw ingredient to the final product. It includes a broad range of activities, from simple techniques such as peeling, chopping and cooking to more advanced techniques such as pasteurization, extrusion and fermentation.

Food processing is essential. Processed foods have been a part of everyday life for people around the world since ancient times when fire cooking was discovered. Even in ancient times, people have used processing techniques, such as drying, smoking and salting to make food edible, safe and available.

Yes, food processing makes many food and beverage products safer. 

Formulations and processing techniques are scientifically developed and designed to deliver food that is safe, eliminating or preventing the presence or growth of any harmful chemical contaminants and micro-organisms that could cause food-borne illnesses. Manufacturers maintain comprehensive food safety standards which cover the entire supply chain, from sourcing through to packaging and transportation and follow all applicable regulations issued by regulatory authorities.

Food additives are food ingredients which are added to a food in order to fulfill a practical function. Additives are sometimes used in food processing to ensure the safety and freshness (preservatives), taste (sweeteners), texture (emulsifiers, stabilizers and thickeners), or appearance (colours) of foods.  

Food additives used in the food supply are highly regulated ingredients and regularly assessed and approved as safe for general consumption by leading food safety authorities such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

Access to food is one of the biggest challenges we face globally, with some areas being deprived of even basic foods. Processing techniques to preserve and store foods improve food security by increasing the availability and stability of the food supply across seasons and geographic regions and can help to alleviate malnutrition due to poor food distribution.

Like all manufacturing, food processing has an impact on the environment. However, manufacturers are working to create more healthier food and beverage choices while using fewer natural resources – driving up environmental standards and creating sustainable agricultural supply chains that protect and restore biodiversity, promote equity and social well-being, improve rural livelihoods and build thriving communities.

Processing can improve the nutritional profile of foods and beverages. Food and beverage manufacturers have reformulated and innovated tens of thousands of products, reducing salt, sugar and fats; eliminating industrially produced trans-fat; increasing the content of essential nutrients and food groups of need (e.g. fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy) to ensure the incorporation of healthier, nutrient-dense products into diets. We are developing more low-and no-calorie products and portion control options which help people to enjoy their favourite foods as part of a varied diet.