Private Sector Policies and Actions
Private-sector organizations play a critical role in shaping the food environments of individuals and populations. Business Impact Assessment for Obesity (BIA-Obesity) is a step-wise approach to data collection is recommended for INFORMAS:
- The first (‘minimal’) step is the collation of publicly available food and nutrition-related policies of selected private-sector organisations.
- The second (‘expanded’) step assesses the nutritional composition of each organisation’s products, their promotions to children, their labelling practices, and the accessibility, availability and affordability of their products.
- The third (‘optimal’) step includes data on other commercial activities that may influence food environments, such as political lobbying and corporate philanthropy.
In 2017, the obesity prevention and nutrition related policies and commitments of 25 food companies in New Zealand and 34 food companies in Australia were assessed using the BIA-Obesity tool and process. There was a wide variation in company scores, as companies varied substantially in the specificity, comprehensiveness and transparency of their policies and commitments. Some companies were performing well in some areas but most could be doing a lot more to create a healthy food environment.
Dr Gary Sacks
Senior Research Fellow
Faculty of Health, Deakin Population Health SRC, Melbourne Burwood Campus,
Email: Dr Gary Sacks
A proposed approach to monitor private-sector policies and practices related to food environments, obesity and non-communicable disease prevention (pages 38–48) G. Sacks, B. Swinburn, V. Kraak, S. Downs, C. Walker, S. Barquera, S. Friel, C. Hawkes, B. Kelly, S. Kumanyika, M. L’Abbé, A. Lee, T. Lobstein, J. Ma, J. Macmullan, S. Mohan, C. Monteiro, B. Neal, M. Rayner, D. Sanders, W. Snowdon, S. Vandevijvere and INFORMAS
Read the INFORMAS paper online here
BIA-Obesity Australia assessed 34 of the largest Australian food companies on their policies and commitments related to obesity prevention and nutrition, across the three major food industry sectors: supermarkets, food and beverage manufacturers, and quick service restaurants. The reports Inside our Supermarkets, Inside our Food and Beverage Manufacturers and Inside our Quick Service Restaurants are now available.
Obesity and diet-related chronic diseases are the major public health problems in New Zealand. Unhealthy food environments are the major drivers of obesity and related chronic diseases. Actions from the government, the food industry and society all contribute to the healthiness of the food environment. As one of the key actors, the food industry has an important role to play in creating healthier food environments.
BIA-Obesity assessed transparency, comprehensiveness and specificity of policies and commitments related to obesity prevention and population nutrition by the major New Zealand food companies but not the actual performance of companies in meeting those commitments and did not assess the overall healthiness of their product profiles. These will be the focus of future research.
The BIA-Obesity (Business Impact Assessment on obesity and population nutrition) tool assesses company policies and commitments across six key domains. The 25 most prominent food companies in New Zealand were selected for assessment across four sectors: food manufacturers, non-alcoholic beverage manufacturers, supermarkets and quick service restaurants. The assessment included commitments until the end of 2017.
Publicly available information on company policies and commitments was analysed for the companies. This included an analysis of New Zealand and international company websites, annual reports, media releases, relevant industry associations and government websites. The project team liaised with companies to supplement and validate the publicly available information. Companies were assessed and ranked with scores combined across domains for an overall score out of 100. Overall performance and examples of best practice and leadership were highlighted. Areas for improvement were identified and specific recommendations made.
New Zealand Findings
The New Zealand results are reported in: Committing to Health: Food Company Policies for Healthier Food Environments
New Zealand food companies demonstrated some commitment to addressing obesity and population nutrition issues, but much stronger action is needed across all six BIA-Obesity domains and all four industry sectors. The best performing domain was ‘corporate nutrition strategy’ while the worst performing domain was ‘product accessibility’. The overall scores ranged from 0-75% with a median overall score of 38%. About half of the companies selected fully engaged with the research process and provided feedback and comments during several steps in the process. View the individual scorecards below.
Scorecards for each food company
The following companies have been selected based on market share data and are included in the assessment for New Zealand. For companies that did not engage in the BIA-Obesity process, the scores and recommendations are based on an evaluation of publically available information on policies and commitments only.
Some NZ food companies are performing well and are meeting good practice benchmarks, including:
All sectors: Incorporating population nutrition and/or obesity prevention into the overarching corporate strategy to some extent
Food and non-alcoholic beverage manufacturers and supermarkets: Reformulating products to reduce levels of sodium. Having some existing targets to reduce sugar in specific food categories. Committing to implement the New Zealand Government endorsed Health Star Ratings on food products. Committing to comply with the Advertising Standards Authority Children and Young People’s Advertising Code
Quick Service Restaurants: Providing nutrition information about foods and meals online
Ranking of companies based on specificity, comprehensiveness and transparency of their commitments related to obesity prevention and population nutrition * Full engagement; § Unable to be contacted; & Willing to participate but survey not returned on time; # Declined participation For §, & and #: Assessment based on publicly available information only (1) Packaged food manufacturers, (2) Non-alcoholic beverage manufacturers, (3) Supermarkets, (4) Quick service restaurants
However, there is considerable room for improvement for most companies. The conversion of commitments into practice needs further evaluation. Stronger action is needed across all four sectors to improve food environments and population nutrition and:
Corporate population nutrition strategy
- Prioritise population nutrition as part of the overall corporate strategy, including relevant objectives, targets, appropriate resourcing and regular reporting against objectives and targets
- Link the Key Performance Indicators of senior managers to nutrition targets in the corporate strategy
- Commit to SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) targets on sodium, sugar, saturated fat and trans fat reduction across the product portfolio
- Use the Health Star Rating system to guide efforts on product development and reformulation
- Support the implementation of regulations by Government on added sugar labelling on food products
- Commit to labelling products with nutrition claims only when products are healthy (i.e. meet the FSANZ Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion (NPSC))
Product and brand promotion
- Develop a marketing policy that applies to children up to the age of 18 years
- Eliminate the use of promotion techniques (e.g., cartoon characters, interactive games) with strong appeal to children on ‘unhealthy’ food products
- Support evidence-informed government policies such as a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages
- Make a commitment to increase the proportion of healthy food products in the overall company portfolio
Relationships with other organisations
- Publish all national relationships and funding for external research on the Zealand website
- Disclose all political donations in real time, or commit to not making political donations
New Zealand Team
Boyd Swinburn, Professor of Population Nutrition and Global Health, The University of Auckland
Dr Stefanie Vandevijvere, Senior Research Fellow, The University of Auckland
Apurva Kasture, Honours student, The University of Auckland
Dr Sally Mackay, Research Fellow, The University of Auckland
Dr Gary Sacks, Senior Research Fellow, Deakin University Melbourne
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