Controversy at the dinner table

Food preservation and processing methods, perfected over thousands of years, are fundamental to our health and well-being. Preserving meat in salt allowed us to transport it over long distances, and pasteurizing milk eliminates harmful bacteria and increases its shelf life. But problems can arise when conservation is no longer the objective; when salt, sugar, and fat, among other substances, are added to foods not only to extend their shelf life, but also to make them taste better.

Growing scrutiny of these developments has resulted in a proposal to reclassify food, no longer based on macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats), but on the level of processing that the food has undergone. The NOVA classification system, proposed in 2009, divides food into four groups: unprocessed natural foods, culinary ingredients (salt, sugar, oils), processed foods, and ultraprocessed foods. The fourth category is considered the most concerning, especially if it represents a significant portion of the diet, and consists of ready-to-eat, industrialized foods produced entirely or almost entirely of ingredients extracted from other foods (such as oils and sugar) or synthesized in a laboratory (colorings and flavorings, for example).

This issue’s cover story shows that while not everyone supports a reclassification, it may be useful in studying the increasing global rates of obesity and diseases such as diabetes. Ultraprocessed foods alone do not explain the problem, which has myriad causes, but studies have begun to show that excessive consumption of these food types is detrimental to human health.


Embraer, the third-largest commercial aircraft manufacturer in the world, is expected to deliver the first order of its new generation of jets in April. Flight tests for the E190-E2, which can carry up to 114 passengers, performed better than expected: the aircraft emits fewer pollutants, has a longer flight range, and is more economical and quieter than the company had initially specified.

Embraer engineers used their expertise in designing and developing aircraft to produce the most efficient single-aisle aircraft on the market, combining innovations, such as the new wing design, with other enhancements, such as new, more efficient engines and an improved fly-by-wire system that automatically controls the moving parts of the wings and tail. The report on page 80 describes how the jet’s high performance is a direct result of the intense research and development activities carried out by the company, both internally and in collaboration with partners.

This issue of Pesquisa FAPESP also takes another look at some important issues addressed in previous editions. The retrospect section revisits the topic of yellow fever—the cover story of the January issue—telling the story of the first attempt at vaccinating against the disease, at the time thought to be transmitted by a bacterium rather than a virus. The article on page 36 outlines five new laws aimed at removing bureaucratic obstacles to research activities, encouraging innovation in companies and strengthening links between the private sector and higher education and research institutions.