Research, led by Oxford University, analysed more than 400 000 products over five years to 2018. Picture: PxHere

London - Packaged food in Britain came out as the healthiest in the world in a major study.

Rigorous tests on food and drink from 12 nations put the UK at the top of the table, followed by America and Australia.

The research, led by Oxford University, analysed more than 400 000 products over five years to 2018.

Everything from ready meals and supermarket sandwiches to chips and fizzy drinks was analysed for levels of sugar, saturated fat, salt, calories and key nutrients such as calcium, protein and fibre.

Each product was given a star rating out of five for healthiness. Although Britain came out on top, it did so with an overall score of just 2.83. Experts stress that too many people are still harming their health with what they eat.

More than half of all food bought in the UK is processed and a study in the Lancet medical journal blames poor diet for almost one in every six deaths. That’s almost 90 000 lives every year, a figure which is poised to overtake the death toll from smoking.

In the Oxford study, published in the Obesity Reviews journal, Britain beat the US (2.82) by a whisker, with Australia third on 2.81. India had the lowest rating of 2.27 then China on 2.43 and Chile with 2.44. The UK also had the lowest level of sugar in food at 3.8 grams per 100g, less than half the 8.5g per 100g in China.

Co-author Professor Bruce Neal, of the George Institute in Australia, said packaged food is taking over the world.

"Billions of people are now exposed to very unhealthy foods," he said. "The obesity crisis is just the first ripple of a tsunami of dietary ill health that is coming for us.

"We have to find a way that the food industry can profit from selling rational quantities of quality food, rather than deluging us with unhealthy junk. There are few greater priorities for human health."

Daily Mail