Food classification guidelines across Australia - concordance and implications of differences
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Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition (GLOBE), Institute for Health Transformation, Deakin University, Burwood, Australia
Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Deakin University, Burwood, Australia
Institute for Health Transformation, Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition (GLOBE), Deakin University, Australia
The George Institute for Global Health, The University of New South Wales, Australia
Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition (GLOBE), Institute for Health Transformation, Deakin University, Australia
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1585
Background: Each Australian jurisdiction produces separate food and drink classification guidelines for different institutional settings (e.g., schools) to guide food service providers on what constitutes a nutritious offering. Australian food manufacturers, suppliers and retailers frequently report that it is challenging to align their product range with a multitude of different classification systems. This study aimed to investigate the concordance between guidelines from all Australian jurisdictions across various settings, based on their application to a range of packaged food and drink products. Methods: Products from top selling brands in Australian food service settings across 10 product categories (e.g., sweet snacks) were classified according to each of the 20 state and territory food classification guidelines applying to schools, workplaces, and healthcare settings (primarily ‘traffic light’ classification systems). Product nutrition information was retrieved from manufacturer, supplier, or retailer websites. The level of concordance between each combination of two guidelines using a traffic light’ based classification system was determined by the proportion of products rated as ‘amber’ across both guidelines. Results: 747 food and drink products were assessed. 88% products were classified at the same level of healthiness across all ‘traffic light’-based systems. Concordance in ‘amber’ food classifications ranged between 63% and 96% across guidelines for different jurisdictions. For school guidelines, ‘ice creams and frozen desserts’ had the highest concordance across guidelines (97%); ‘meat and seafood products’ had the lowest concordance (80%). Discrepancies mainly arose from differences in food categories included in guidelines, e.g., the ‘ready-to-eat meals’ category was absent from some guidelines. Conclusions: There is a need for national coordination and greater evidence-based consistency in food classification guidelines across Australian jurisdictions. This will help ensure clarity for businesses on how to better support community health, including food manufacturer product development and reformulation, and food outlets offerings.