INFORMAS e-newsletter

No 3 2016


Dear <<First Name>>

Progress Comment - Boyd Swinburn

Dear INFORMAS informants
As you can see from the latest newsletter, INFORMAS monitoring is underway in many countries, with Latin American countries particularly active. At the World Public Health Nutrition Congress in Cape Town in September, it was great to see so many presentations from researchers and PhD students on aspects of INFORMAS. As Kelly Garton, the PhD student highlighted in Student’s Corner below, notes, there are many opportunities for students to take a slice of the INFORMAS framework and develop it up to create new evidence, insights and tools for wider application.
We are in the process of getting the MoUs between INFORMAS researchers up to date. It is very important to have a clear understanding about the ownership and potential uses of the data collected. We are aiming to create a system whereby researchers maintain ownership of their data, but we all agree to contribute cleaned datasets centrally so that all contributors can undertake comparative analyses – which is where the strength of the data lies.
Please pass this newsletter on to others whom you think would like to receive this quarterly update from the INFORMAS team at the University of Auckland.

Ka kite ano

Highlights - DietCost study

Stefanie Vandevijvere

Dr Stefanie Vandevijvere is a Research Fellow at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
DietCost: Modelling the cost differential between healthy versus current, less healthy diets

An unhealthy diet contributes to obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases. The price of food is a major determinant of food choices. The variation of the cost of diets is important but currently unknown. There is ongoing discussion on whether a healthy diet is significantly cheaper or more expensive than the current, less healthy diet.

DietCost is a new University of Auckland project which is an extension of the INFORMAS Food Prices module. Many diet scenarios can be constructed using a list of commonly consumed foods to meet nutrient and food-based dietary guidelines (for ‘healthy’ diets) or specified nutrient and food intakes (for ‘current’ diets). A novel software programme is currently being developed to assess the distribution of the cost of healthy and current diets using different combinations of a selection of commonly consumed foods, determined by a set of constraints for each, and specified food and nutrient targets or intakes. This programme is being developed in two different steps:
  1. To derive all the “different” two-weekly household menu plans that fit the specified food and nutrient “constraints” for the healthy and the current diet.
  2. To transform the grams of foods eaten in the menu plans into grams of foods to be purchased (using the edible and cooking yield factors) and to take into account the variation in prices of the foods (e.g. season, supermarket chain, type of outlet, generic/branded price, original/discount price etc.)
By taking into account variations of diet costs, the programme will allow for answering the question for the first time, whether a healthy diet is significantly cheaper or more expensive than the current less healthy diet. If successful, this programme can also be franchised to other countries.

The aim is for this programme to be available for other INFORMAS countries for use early 2017. Please contact Stefanie Vandevijvere if you are interested in learning more about this programme.

Country highlights - Central America

The INFORMAS team in Central America is working in the following modules: Food Epi Index, food composition, food labelling, food promotion and food provision.

Public Sector: Several government entities and key stakeholders were contacted to provide evidence of policy implementation in Guatemala.  A standardised Food-Epi questionnaire in Spanish was developed in cooperation with other Latin-American teams.  At the moment, collected evidence is being validated with local experts and a data collection pilot is planned. The team expects to hold workshops with key civil society actors in three different locations: western, central and eastern Guatemala by the end of November 2016.

Food composition/food labelling: Around 3300 packaged food items were photographed in two supermarkets in Guatemala. The team is currently finishing data entry for composition and nutritional information. In Costa Rica, a collaboration with INCIENSA has been established to analyse labelling information of an existing food database. Protocols for nutritional and health claims analysis are being adapted to the local needs for both Guatemala and Costa Rica.

Food promotion: Data collection for television ads in the six most popular children-oriented channels in Guatemala has been completed. In Costa Rica, four channels were selected based on ratings and recordings are being made. The next step will be to finish data collection in Costa Rica and to analyse data in both countries.

Food provision: A protocol to measure the density of food outlets and outdoors advertisements around schools is being developed. The team will conduct a pilot study to validate school zones selection by different methods.
Several students are involved in the different modules as part of a mentorship and capacity building program funded by IDRC.  Overall, the teams are making good progress and expect to present results by mid-2017.

By Amarilis Alarcon and Fernanda Kroker.


At the World Public Health  Nutrition Congress, 30 August to 2 September 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa, Carlos Monteiro and Boyd Swinburn were invited speakers. Boyd Swinburn spoke at a plenary session about "Obesity prevention: Progress made and progress needed"; Carlos Monteiro gave a keynote at the opening session on "Why (and how to fight) the growing double burden of malnutrition in the global South? Lessons from Brazil". Several INFORMAS members from a range of countries (e.g. New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Norway, UK, Canada, Mexico) attended this conference which provided an excellent opportunity to network and discuss research needs. View presentations from the conference here.

Upcoming: International Congress on Nutrition, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 15-20 October 2017. There will be two INFORMAS symposia based on different country experiences in implementing INFORMAS: Symposium 1 is on the Food Epi (Public Sector) and Symposium 2 is on food labelling and marketing. A number of key INFORMAS members will be attending this event, so add this to your diary if you are interested in INFORMAS as there will be plenty of opportunities to network and learn about INFORMAS. Click here for the ICN2017 website.



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

Kelly Garton, PhD Candidate (Food Trade & Investment)

"I am a first year PhD student at the University of Auckland. My research focuses on international trade and investment agreements and policy space in relation to food environments. I am still in the research design phase, but one of my aims is to help develop and test the expanded and optimal approaches for the INFORMAS trade module protocol in New Zealand and in Canada. Being part of the network provides a valuable opportunity to collaborate with researchers from other INFORMAS countries for cross-country comparison, and the potential for our research to have greater impact."



Al-Ani H H, Devi A, Eyles H, Swinburn B, Vandevijvere S. Nutrition and health claims on healthy and less-healthy packaged food products in New Zealand. British Journal of Nutrition. 2016. doi:

Mialon M, Swinburn B, Allenders S, Sacks G. Systematic examination of publicly-available information reveals the diverse and extensive corporate political activity of the food industry in Australia. BMC Pub Health. 2016; 16(1):283. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-2955-7

Rincón-Gallardo Patiño S, Tolentino-Mayo L, Alejandro Flores Monterrubio E, Harris J L, Vandevijvere S, Rivera J A, Barquera S. Nutritional quality of foods and non-alcoholic beverages advertised on Mexican television according to three nutrient profile models. BMC Public Health. 2016; 16:733. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3298-0

For more publications, please visit the INFORMAS website.


Twitter Account not yet Authorized


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

Subscribe to INFORMAS quarterly e-newsletters here
Forward to Friend
Copyright © 2016 University of Auckland, All rights reserved.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp
unsubscribe from this list | update subscription preferences