INFORMAS e-newsletter

October 2015


Dear <<First Name>>

Progress Comment - Boyd Swinburn


These last few months has been a busy time for INFORMAS with the meeting in Brisbane and symposia in the ICDAM9 meeting. We had 24 people from 8 countries at the day and half INFORMAS meeting. With 10 modules and 8 participating countries and several more countries interested, it was a packed agenda. Many thanks to Dr Sue Krebs-Smith from NCI for joining us and helping us think through the Diet Quality module which still needs quite a bit of work. It was great having Dr Tilakavati Karupaiah (thankfully called Tilly for short) from Malaysia and Dr Ngan Hoang from Vietnam join us as they try to get funding for their countries to do some INFORMAS studies in their countries. We are happy to link with researchers in any countries who want to measure food policies and environments, so if there are funding opportunities where the INFORMAS team can help in grant submission, please contact us. We are also on the lookout for opportunities for funding for a multi-country study and there are a couple of these on the horizon (although the European Horizon2020 hasn’t yet looked promising). We are now looking forward to the INFORMAS symposium at Obesity Week in LA in early November, making it 3 international conferences this year at which INFORMAS has had a symposium.


Module highlights - Private Sector Policies and Actions

Gary Sacks

Gary Sacks is a Senior Research Fellow at the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University.
  • INFORMAS is in detailed discussions with the Access to Nutrition Foundation (ATNF) about adapting the Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI) methods for use as part of INFORMAS to rate food company performance. We have funding to implement this in Canada and New Zealand.
  • We have developed a conceptual framework for classifying the corporate political activity of the food industry - developed by Melissa Mialon PhD Student, based on a framework developed for monitoring tobacco companies. This has been published in Obesity reviews 2015; 16(7): 519-530, doi: 10.1111/obr.12289
  • We have also developed a protocol for monitoring the corporate political activity of the food industry using publicly available information (published in same paper as above). This relates to the “optimal” (third step) of the methods for monitoring the private sector.
  • Melissa has implemented the protocol in Australia, Fiji and France (papers in preparation). New Zealand will soon run this as well, and other countries can adopt the same protocol.
  • Melissa has also conducted interviews with ex-policy makers in Australia and Fiji to gain further insight into the corporate political activity of the food industry. These interviews revealed great insight into the tactics used by major food companies to influence politicians.
  • One of Gary’s students, Benjamin Sullivan, at Deakin has been looking into the extent of food industry involvement in nutrition research. Paper expected to be submitted by the end of the year.


Country highlights - Fiji

Fiji has been making great progress on INFORMAS. The Food Composition module was completed in 2012. Food Provision for TV, street, radio advertising and sponsorship was completed for 5 countries (Fiji, Tonga, New Caledonia, Samoa and American Samoa) in 2010 and for Fiji in 2012. Food Retail (small 'ground truthing' study in Suva) and Food Provision modules (15 schools) pilot testing of the protocols has been completed in Fiji.

Two modules are being completed by PhD students. For the Private Sector , which is part of Melissa Mialon’s PhD (Deakin University, supervised by Gary Sacks), data collection and analysis are completed. Food Prices is being conducted by PhD student Sally Mackay (The University of Auckland, supervised by Amanda Lee) and data collection is ongoing.

Modules in progress include the Public Sector and workshops will be held in October/November 2015, and for Food Labelling data is being re-checked and new entries created for promotional characters. Work for the Food Trade & Investment module is underway by Amerita Ravuvu (a consultant working with Sharon Friel, the Australian National University, Canberra) – data collection is finalised.

The aim is to roll over to 7 MANA target Pacific Islands (depend on funding 2015-2020) for the modules on Food Composition, Food Provision, Food Retail, Food Prices and Food Trade & Investment.



The 2015 INFORMAS meeting was held in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia on Monday 31 August 2015 and Tuesday 1 September 2015 at the QUT Executive Centre. There was a great turnout of 24 attendees from a broad range of countries - New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, USA and Canada.

The meeting was held in conjunction with the 9th ICDAM conference (1-3 September) where two INFORMAS symposia were presented by various INFORMAS members on Day 2 on: Benchmarking Food Environments 'Country Experiences' and 'Key Challenges and Future Directions'. Read more from the meeting and symposia on the INFORMAS website.

Upcoming: Obesity Week, 2-6 November 2015, Los Angeles, California. Boyd Swinburn, Stefanie Vandevijvere and Simon Barquera  will be presenting another international INFORMAS symposium on 'Towards Global Monitoring of Food Environments and Policies: The INFORMAS Initiative'



In Canada, Mary L'Abbe has received a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to conduct the Food-EPI module (including both government and the private sector modules) and has received full support and a collaboration letter from the ATNI group. Lana Vanderlee, a Post Doctoral Fellow, will be working with Mary on these modules. Work is to commence in 2016.



INFORMAS is an excellent framework for PhD students from a range of countries to be involved in research on INFORMAS modules.

"Having the opportunity to be part of INFORMAS, and develop a project on healthy food and nutrition environments for my PhD has been a rewarding learning experience. Not only am I able to learn from my two supervisors, but also be in the know about the exciting research in my field through the wider INFORMAS network. INFORMAS provides students like me with the chance to develop our research interests and skills, while opening up future prospects for global collaborations with other like-minded researchers." - Erica D'Souza, PhD student (Food Provision)

Highlight: In Canada, a new PhD student under the supervision of Mary L'Abbe is starting September 2015 to work on the Food Labelling and Food Promotion modules.



Cameron AJ, Sayers SJ, Sacks G, Thornton LE. Do the foods advertised in Australian supermarket catalogues reflect national dietary guidelines? Health Promotion International. 2015; 1-9. doi: 10.1093/heapro/dav089

Charlton EL, Kähkönen LA, Sacks G, Cameron AJ. Supermarkets and unhealthy food marketing: An international comparison of the content of supermarket catalogues/circulars. Preventive Medicine. 2015; 81: 167-173. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.08.023

da Costa Louzada ML, Baraldi LG, Steele EM, Borletto Martins AP, Canella DS, Moubarac JC, Levy RB, Cannon G, Afshin A, Imamura F, Mozaffarian D, Monteiro CA.  Consumption of ultra-processed foods and obesity in Brazilian adolescents and adults. Preventive Medicine. 2015; 81: 9-15. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.07.018

da Costa Louzada ML, Borletto Martins AP, Canella DS, Baraldi LG, Levy RB, Claro RM, Moubarac JC, Cannon G, Monteiro CA. Ultra-processed foods and the nutritional dietary profile in Brazil. Rev Saúde Pública. 2015; 49: 38. doi: 0.1590/S0034-8910.2015049006132

For more publications, please visit the INFORMAS website.


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For questions or suggestions, please contact:
Dr Stefanie Vandevijvere:
or project manager Tina Buch:

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