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Food packages were objectively assessed to explore differences in nutrition labelling, selected promotional marketing techniques and health and nutrition claims between countries, in comparison to national regulations.
Chip and sweet biscuit packages were collected from sixteen countries at different levels of economic development in the EPOCH (Environmental Profile of a Community’s Health) study between 2008 and 2010.
Seven hundred and thirty-seven food packages were systematically evaluated for nutrition labelling, selected promotional marketing techniques relevant to nutrition and health, and health and nutrition claims. We compared pack labelling in countries with labelling regulations, with voluntary regulations and no regulations.
Overall 86 % of the packages had nutrition labels, 30 % had health or nutrition claims and 87 % displayed selected marketing techniques. On average, each package displayed two marketing techniques and one health or nutrition claim. In countries with mandatory nutrition labelling a greater proportion of packages displayed nutrition labels, had more of the seven required nutrients present, more total nutrients listed and higher readability compared with those with voluntary or no regulations. Countries with no health or nutrition claim regulations had fewer claims per package compared with countries with regulations.
Nutrition label regulations were associated with increased prevalence and quality of nutrition labels. Health and nutrition claim regulations were unexpectedly associated with increased use of claims, suggesting that current regulations may not have the desired effect of protecting consumers. Of concern, lack of regulation was associated with increased promotional marketing techniques directed at children and misleadingly promoting broad concepts of health.
Shamir R. Mehta, Population Health Institute, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada; Division of Cardiology, Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada,
John W. Eikelboom, Department of Haematology, Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, Australia,
Salim Yusuf, Population Health Institute, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada; Division of Cardiology, Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada