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Comparison of nutrient profiling models for assessing the nutritional quality of foods: a validation study

  • Theresa Poon (a1), Marie-Ève Labonté (a1) (a2), Christine Mulligan (a1), Mavra Ahmed (a1), Kacie M. Dickinson (a1) (a3) and Mary R. L’Abbé (a1)...

Abstract

Nutrient profiling (NP) is a method for evaluating the healthfulness of foods. Although many NP models exist, most have not been validated. This study aimed to examine the content and construct/convergent validity of five models from different regions: Australia/New Zealand (FSANZ), France (Nutri-Score), Canada (HCST), Europe (EURO) and Americas (PAHO). Using data from the 2013 UofT Food Label Information Program (n15342 foods/beverages), construct/convergent validity was assessed by comparing the classifications of foods determined by each model to a previously validated model, which served as the reference (Ofcom). The parameters assessed included associations (Cochran–Armitage trend test), agreement (κ statistic) and discordant classifications (McNemar’s test). Analyses were conducted across all foods and by food category. On the basis of the nutrients/components considered by each model, all models exhibited moderate content validity. Although positive associations were observed between each model and Ofcom (all Ptrend<0·001), agreement with Ofcom was ‘near perfect’ for FSANZ (κ=0·89) and Nutri-Score (κ=0·83), ‘moderate’ for EURO (κ=0·54) and ‘fair’ for PAHO (κ=0·28) and HCST (κ=0·26). There were discordant classifications with Ofcom for 5·3 % (FSANZ), 8·3 % (Nutri-Score), 22·0 % (EURO), 33·4 % (PAHO) and 37·0 % (HCST) of foods (all P<0·001). Construct/convergent validity was confirmed between FSANZ and Nutri-Score v. Ofcom, and to a lesser extent between EURO v. Ofcom. Numerous incongruencies with Ofcom were identified for HCST and PAHO, which highlights the importance of examining classifications across food categories, the level at which differences between models become apparent. These results may be informative for regulators seeking to adapt and validate existing models for use in country-specific applications.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: M. R. L’Abbé, fax +416 971 2366, email mary.labbe@utoronto.ca

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