Highlighting implementation challenges of plans to restrict point-of-sale promotions
New plans to restrict point-of-sale promotions of less healthy foods and drinks in England aim to encourage healthier choices. With responsibility for implementation of restrictions likely to fall to food retailers, it is important to understand the challenges they face in order to ensure policy success.
Researchers from the CDRC applied the rules in the proposal to a database containing 45,000 food and drink products, to understand how feasible the policy is to implement from a retailer perspective. They found the data available to retailers were insufficient to apply the rules set out by the policy proposal, which would result in some products being incorrectly promoted.
Project lead, Vicki Jenneson, discussed the policy and her findings with industry nutritionists from six UK retail and manufacturing businesses to understand how implementation challenges could be addressed.
Based on our findings, we are currently engaging with policy makers to recommend a review of the legislative basis to establish rules which align public health benefit with data feasibility.
The researchers are highlighting that government support is needed, in the form of a free-to-use tool for consistent automated product assessment, and development of a data-sharing platform, accessible to industry and the legislator.
This work went on to inform a CDRC-funded LIDA Data Scientist Intern who created an interactive tool – the Nutrient Profile Model Calculator – for policy makers.
Improving understanding of changing diets
In collaboration with the University of Oxford’s Wellcome Trust-funded Livestock Environment and People project, the CDRC are using supermarket transaction data to investigate trends in meat consumption between 2016 and 2019. Vegetarian and vegan diets are increasing in popularity in the UK, but little is known about how people’s overall dietary patterns change when they reduce their meat consumption. We are using machine learning techniques to identify households that reduce their meat consumption and examine the dietary patterns associated with that transition.
CDRC researchers, Dr Nik Lomax and William James, are building on work funded by the PigSustain project to produce high spatial resolution estimates of consumption in England and Wales. They have already developed expenditure estimates across a range of food and drink categories at local authority level. Their latest work focuses on how much is actually consumed, enabling them to compare diets to food availability, and identify areas where deficiencies in nutrient intake are most prevalent.
Uncovering new rural e-food deserts
A new small area ‘e-food deserts index’ (EFDI) produced by the CDRC revealed that food deserts are not solely an urban phenomenon associated with neighbourhood deprivation. Analysis by Dr Andy Newing revealed the presence of rural ‘e-food deserts’ –neighbourhoods that suffer a dual disadvantage of poor access to grocery stores alongside comparatively poor provision of grocery home delivery services.
The index highlights the barriers in providing services within some of our most remote and rural areas, where population density does not warrant comprehensive food store provision and where retailers also face considerable costs in providing grocery home delivery services to dispersed populations. This indicator will, hopefully, help to focus attention on these inequalities.
The index can be explored via interactive maps available for all LSOAs in England & Wales and Data Zones in Scotland. The data and a more detailed user guide can be downloaded via the CDRC website.
The Trust for London, an independent charitable foundation aiming to tackle poverty and inequality in London, has used the e-food deserts index as part of its London Poverty Profile series, which also highlights CDRC research conducted by UCL. Since the launch of the EFDI on the Trust’s website, the page has been viewed over 572 times, with metrics that suggest good engagement. When first announced in the Trust’s January newsletter, it was the third best performing piece of content, placing the index as one of the highest-performing maps within the London Poverty Profile content. The index has also been cited by a number of local news outlets across England, further demonstrating the index’s importance to local populations and improving local lives.