Protecting New Zealand children from exposure to the marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks: a comparison of three nutrient profiling systems to classify foods.

N Z Med J 2016 Sep 9;129(1441):41-53. Epub 2016 Sep 9.

Senior Research Fellow, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University of Auckland, Auckland.

Aim: Promotion of unhealthy foods and drinks is a significant, modifiable risk factor for child obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases. We compared three accepted nutrient profiling systems: the Health Star Rating (HSR), the Ministry of Health Food and Beverage Classification System (FBCS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe Nutrient Profiling Model, to identify the best system to protect New Zealand children from exposure to the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages.

Methods: 13,066 packaged foods from the 2014 New Zealand Nutritrack database were classified as 'restricted' or 'not restricted' as per the WHO model; 'everyday/sometimes' or 'occasional' as per the FBCS model; and '<3.5 stars' or '≥3.5 stars' as per the HSR model. The proportion and types of packaged foods that met the criteria for all three systems or none of the systems, and the types of food products classified as 'restricted' under the WHO model but classified as 'everyday/sometimes' (FBCS model) or as having >3.5 stars, were determined.

Results: Under any of the three nutrient profiling systems, approximately one-third (29-39%) of New Zealand packaged foods would be permitted to be marketed to children. The WHO Model would permit marketing of 29% of products; the HSR system would permit 36%; and the FBCS system would permit 39%. The WHO Model restricts marketing of unhealthy foods more effectively than the other two systems. The HSR and FBCS systems would permit marketing of a number of food products of concern, particularly high-sugar breakfast cereals, fruit juices and ready meals.

Conclusion: The WHO Regional Office for Europe Nutrient Profiling Model should underpin the Advertising Standards Authority revised Children's Code for Advertising Food. The effectiveness of the new Code in reducing New Zealand children's exposure to marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks should be subject to evaluation by an independent body.

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Source
September 2016

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