INFORMAS e-newsletter

No 1 2016


Dear <<First Name>>

Progress Comment - Boyd Swinburn

Dear Colleagues,

INFORMAS continues to grow and evolve as many more countries become interested and engaged. There are now 17 countries involved in either implementing INFORMAS modules or applying for funding to do so.  The Canadian International Development Research Center has been an excellent supporter of food environments research using INFORMAS modules in low and middle income countries, especially in Latin America (thank you IDRC).  Since many of the Latin American countries are now global exemplars for food policies and regulations, fiscal policies, and enlightened dietary guidelines, there is a high priority on measuring the impact of these policies as they are implemented and influence the food environments.  It seems appropriate to think ahead to the International Congress on Nutrition, which will be in Buenos Aires in October 2017, as a very important congress to present the results of these studies.

The INFORMAS developments are too many to cite in a newsletter, but you will see that we have chosen to highlight a module (Food Composition), a country (Mexico), a PhD student (Sirinya Phulkerd), and a recent publication (Phulkerd et al. 2016) in this edition to give you a flavour of the excellent work underway.  There are now at least five PhD students and many Masters students contributing to various modules and they really are helping to shape the way that INFORMAS is evolving.

You may have heard about the launch of the Lancet Commission on Obesity ( Its first meeting is about now (17/18 February) and you will not be surprised to learn that we are including INFORMAS as a core part of the accountability assessments that the Commission is planning on doing. I really hope that the profile that the Commission can gain will help us get funding for other countries to undertake INFORMAS surveys.

If you are going to be attending the International Congress on Nutrition in Vancouver in May and want to learn more about INFORMAS, please contact Tina Buch ( to get the details of the informal INFORMAS meeting we will be hosting there.

Ka kite ano

Module highlights - Food Composition

Bruce Neal

Bruce Neal is Senior Director, Food Policy Division and Chair of the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health, The George Institute for Global Health, NSW Australia.
The uptake of the Food Composition module is going well. Food Composition databases have been set up in 10 countries: Australia, New Zealand, UK, China, India, USA, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica and South Africa. There are further planned databases for 2016 in Switzerland and Hong Kong.

The types of data available across all country food composition databases include: complete nutrient data (as per the label); product name; barcode (GTIN/SKU); allergens; endorsements; front of pack labelling; ingredients; pack and serve/portion size information; brand and manufacturer information; food group/categories, change in product composition over time.

Calculated Health Start Ratings as well as Traffic Light Labelling (aka colour coded labelling) are currently available for Australia, New Zealand, UK, South Africa, China and India. This is planned to be established across all country databases in future (under development for USA and the Americas). Additionally in Australia, health claims and fast food (quick service restaurant) nutrient information are collected and available.

The FoodSwitch smartphone application is now up and running in 6 countries: Australia, New Zealand, UK, South Africa, India and China. The Data Collector App is available to all countries (on both iOS and Android platforms), and is used as the primary data collection tool for those with developed Food Composition databases.

Country highlights - Mexico

The Mexican INFORMAS team mainly, has been working within three modules: (1) Food-Epi, (2) television advertisements, and (3) food labelling.

Currently, the Food-Epi protocol is being adapted and adjusted, in order to better reflect the advancements and gaps within Mexico´s food environment policies. The questionnaire has been adapted and translated into Spanish, and will be distributed over the next three months.

To monitor the impact of module 2, data on the children´s exposure to unhealthy food promotions has been collected, specifically on the frequency of commercials from 4 major Mexican broadcast channels with the highest national audience ratings between 6:25am-10:10pm, beginning from 2013 to 2015. Currently, the team is analysing data from 2014 and will present the firsts results from 2014 in a poster titled “Marketing techniques used within food advertisements on Mexican broadcast TV” at the International Congress of Obesity (ICO). The next steps for this module are to analyse data from 2015, and compare the data between 2013, 2014, and 2015.

In relation to module 3, data has been collected on health-related labels, promotional characters, and special offers on packaged foods and non-alcoholic beverages from 13 different supermarkets of 6 different cities within Mexico from August 2014 to July 2015. The team has already analysed the data on types of claims and marketing techniques from 2014; and will present results at ICO with a poster titled “Marketing and Health-related Labelling on the Front-of-pack of Milk and Dairy Products in Mexico”. In the future, we look forward to compare data between years and countries.

Food composition is another component that Mexico has been working with. The team has collected several photos from different products using the George Institute mobile app. Additionally; Mexico has already data from Food composition, Food retail and Food prices components. Actually, the team is looking forward to receive the other protocols to start the data collection process. Next steps for the team will be to analyse the data and to write reports to present the results.



During Obesity Week (2-6 November 2015) in Los Angeles, California, Boyd Swinburn, Stefanie Vandevijvere and Simon Barquera presented another international INFORMAS symposium entitled 'Towards Global Monitoring of Food Environments and Policies: The INFORMAS Initiative'. This was the third international INFORMAS symposium of 2015.

Upcoming: The XIII International Congress on Obesity (ICO), 1-4 May 2016, Vancouver, Canada. Stefanie Vandevijvere and Boyd Swinburn will be presenting two sessions in the 'World Obesity - Policy & Prevention' segment on 4 May: 'Update on the INFORMAS initiative' and 'Setting up the Lancet Commission on Obesity'. View the symposia programme here.

At ICO, there will also be an informal INFORMAS meeting open to module leaders, country representatives and anyone interested in learning more about INFORMAS. This meeting will take place Tuesday 3 May during the lunch break. Please contact to register your interest.



IDRC has approved a proposal on actions to improve the food environment in Brazil with an aim to make feasible the recommendations proposed by the 2014 Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population. It will be a 3-year project with five different studies and will use the INFORMAS methodology in (at least) two studies: food labelling and food promotion. The lead applicant of the project is Idec (Brazilian Institute for Consumers Defense. PI: Ana Paula Martins), together with University of Sao Paulo (Nupens/SPH, PI: Carlos Monteiro and Patricia Jaime) and ACT (Alliance for the control of tobacco use, PI: Paula Johns).



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

"I am currently a second year PhD student in School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University. My work focuses on assessing the level of government implementation of food environment policies in Thailand using adapted Food-EPI tool and process, and evaluating the policy implementation process. I just completed the assessment of the implementation level with state and non-state actors in December 2015. I am now working on the analysis of the implementation process of two selected policies: the policy which failed to be implemented and the policy which was implemented as planned. This study is expected to be finished by May 2016." - Sirinya Phulkerd, PhD Candidate (Public Sector Policies and Actions)



'Phulkerd S, Lawrence M, Vandevijvere S, Sacks G, Worsley A, Tangcharoensathien V. A review of methods and tools to assess the implementation of government policies to create healthy food environments for preventing obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases. Implementation Science 2016; 11(1): 1-13. doi: 10.1186/s13012-016-0379-5

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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