Comparison of global nutrient profiling systems for restricting the commercial marketing of foods and beverages of low nutritional quality to children in Canada
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Background: The Canadian government recently committed to introduce legislation to restrict the commercial marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children.Objective: We compared the degree of strictness and agreement between nutrient profile (NP) models relevant to marketing restrictions by applying them in the Canadian context.Design: With the use of data from the University of Toronto 2013 Food Label Information Program (n = 15,342 prepackaged foods), 4 NP models were evaluated: the Food Standards Australia New Zealand-Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion (FSANZ-NPSC), the WHO Regional Office for Europe (EURO) model, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) model, and a modified version of the PAHO model (Modified-PAHO), which did not consider the extent of food processing because the application of this characteristic was prone to ambiguity. The number and proportion of foods that would be eligible for marketing to children was calculated with the use of each model, overall and by food category.Results: The Modified-PAHO and PAHO models would permit only 9.8% (95% CI: 9.4%, 10.3%) and 15.8% (95% CI: 15.3%, 16.4%) of foods, respectively, followed by the EURO model [29.8% (95% CI: 29.0%, 30.5%)]. In contrast, the FSANZ-NPSC would consider almost half of prepackaged foods as eligible for marketing to children [49.0% (95% CI: 48.2%, 49.8%)]. Cross-classification analyses showed that only 8.1% of foods would be eligible based on all models (e.g., most pastas without sauce). Subanalyses showed that each model would be more stringent when evaluating food items that specifically target children on their package (n = 747; from 1.9% of foods eligible under Modified-PAHO to 24.2% under FSANZ-NPSC).Conclusions: The degree of strictness and agreement vary greatly between NP models applicable to marketing restrictions. The discrepancies between models highlight the importance for policy makers to carefully evaluate the characteristics underlying such models when trying to identify a suitable model to underpin regulations restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.
Mary R L'Abbé
Marie-Ève Labonté,Theresa Poon,Christine Mulligan,Jodi T Bernstein,Beatriz Franco-Arellano,Mary R L'Abbé