The European Food Regulatory Environment Index: a tool to monitor progress in implementing food environment policies
Madureira Lima J., Rayner M., Breda J., Jewell J.
Background: Evidence based health policy, such as that put forward in the European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015-2020 and the WHO Global Action Plan on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, has a role in curbing the consumption of unhealthful foods and drink. We ask how countries are performing in the adoption of these policies and how the comprehensiveness of their food environment policies explains variations in consumption of unhealthful products across Europe. Methods: In order to assess the state of policy adoption, we developed a composite indicator - the Food Regulatory Environment Index (FREI) for which we calculated unweighted and weighted formulations according to the strength of the evidence base. We used linear regression models to explain variations in the consumption of unhealthful products as well as variations in a composite indicator of obesogenic diets. Results: Overall, wealthier countries in the Region perform better. The weighting of the constituent policies does not affect the rankings. We find negative associations between unweighted and weighted formulations of the Index and household consumption of sugary and carbonate drinks as well as with the composite indicator for obesogenic diets. Conclusions: The main strength of this study is the comprehensiveness and comparability of the policy data across the relatively large number of countries covered. There is a negative association that is statistically significant, between all formulations of the FREI and the household consumption of sugary and carbonated drinks. There is also a negative association between some FREI formulations and obesogenic diets.