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To assess the nutritional quality of Australian supermarket own brand chilled convenience foods (SOBCCF), for example, ready meals, pizza, pies and desserts.
Two large supermarkets (Coles and Woolworths) in Perth, Western Australia were audited in February 2017.
Data were extracted from photographic images of 291 SOBCCF, including front-of-pack information (i.e. product name, description and nutrition labels including Health Star Rating (HSR)) and back-of-pack information (i.e. nutrition information panel and ingredients list). SOBCCF were classified as healthy or unhealthy consistent with principles of the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGTHE), NOVA classification of level of food processing and HSR score.
Fifty-four percentage of SOBCCF were classified as unhealthy according to AGTHE principles, 94 % were ultra-processed foods using NOVA and 81 % scored a HSR of ≥2·5, implying that they were a healthy choice. Some convenience food groups comprised more healthy choices overall including prepared vegetables, salad kits and bowls, soups and vegetarian food. A significantly larger proportion of SOBCCF from Coles were classified as unhealthy compared with Woolworths (70 v. 44 %, P < 0·05) using the AGTHE.
The findings suggest there is potential for Australian supermarkets to improve the nutritional quality of their SOBCCF and highlights the differences between supermarkets in applying their corporate social responsibility policies. Policies to assist consumers to select healthier foods should address difficulties in identifying healthy convenience foods. The findings reveal misclassification of unhealthy SOBCCF as healthy by the HSR suggesting that its algorithm should be reformed to align with recommendations of the AGTHE.
To objectively evaluate voluntary nutrition and health claims and marketing techniques present on packaging of high-market-share ultra-processed foods (UPF) in Australia for their potential impact on public health.
Packaging information from five high-market-share food manufacturers and one retailer were obtained from supermarket and manufacturers’ websites.
Ingredients lists for 215 UPF were examined for presence of added sugar. Packaging information was categorised using a taxonomy of nutrition and health information which included nutrition and health claims and five common food marketing techniques. Compliance of statements and claims with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and with Health Star Ratings (HSR) were assessed for all products.
Almost all UPF (95 %) contained added sugars described in thirty-four different ways; 55 % of UPF displayed a HSR; 56 % had nutrition claims (18 % were compliant with regulations); 25 % had health claims (79 % were compliant); and 97 % employed common food marketing techniques. Packaging of 47 % of UPF was designed to appeal to children. UPF carried a mean of 1·5 health and nutrition claims (range 0–10) and 2·6 marketing techniques (range 0–5), and 45 % had HSR≤3·0/5·0.
Most UPF packaging featured nutrition and health statements or claims despite the high prevalence of added sugars and moderate HSR. The degree of inappropriate or inaccurate statements and claims present is concerning, particularly on packaging designed to appeal to children. Public policies to assist parents to select healthy family foods should address the quality and accuracy of information provided on UPF packaging.
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