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Front-of-package nutrition references are positively associated with food processing

  • Anthea Christoforou (a1), Naomi Dachner (a1), Rena Mendelson (a2) and Valerie Tarasuk (a1)

Foods characterized by a high degree of processing are pervasive in the global food supply and concerns have been raised about their contribution to the escalating burden of diet-related disease. It has been suggested that the dominance of these products relates in part to their aggressive on-package marketing. The purpose of the present study was to assess the relationship between the extent and nature of front-of-package (FOP) nutrition references on products sold in Canadian supermarkets and the level of food processing.


FOP references were recorded from all packaged foods. Nutrition references were classified as ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ and further differentiated in terms of the use of regulated and unregulated text. Foods were coded for level of processing, using three different classification systems. Logistic and negative binomial regression analyses were conducted to assess associations.


Three large Toronto supermarkets, from the top Canadian food retailers.


Packaged foods (n 20 520).


Forty-one per cent of products had FOP nutrition references. Irrespective of the classification system considered, the most processed category comprised the greatest proportion of products and nearly half of these bore FOP references. Foods deemed most processed were more likely than less processed products to bear FOP references and regulated and unregulated references to negative ingredients, but they were equally or less likely to bear positive nutrition references, depending on the classification system.


The greater frequency of FOP nutrition references on heavily processed foods raises questions about the extent to which discretionary FOP labelling supports public health efforts to promote healthy eating.

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