Deconstructing the Supermarket: Systematic Ingredient Disaggregation and the Association between Ingredient Usage and Product Health Indicators for 24,229 Australian Foods and Beverages
Unhealthy diets are underpinned by the over-consumption of packaged products. Data describing the ingredient composition of these products is limited. We sought to define the ingredients used in Australian packaged foods and beverages and assess associations between the number of ingredients and existing health indicators. Statements of ingredients were disaggregated, creating separate fields for each ingredient and sub-ingredient. Ingredients were categorised and the average number of
... number of ingredients per product was calculated. Associations between number of ingredients and both the nutrient-based Health Star Rating (HSR) and the NOVA level-of-processing classification were assessed. A total of 24,229 products, listing 233,113 ingredients, were included. Products had between 1 and 62 ingredients (median (Interquartile range (IQR)): 8 (3–14)). We identified 915 unique ingredients, which we organised into 17 major and 138 minor categories. 'Additives' were contained in the largest proportion of products (64.6%, (15,652/24,229)). The median number of ingredients per product was significantly lower in products with the optimum 5-star HSR (when compared to all other HSR score groups, p-value < 0.001) and significantly higher in products classified as ultra-processed (when compared to all other NOVA classification groups, p-value < 0.001). There is a strong relationship between the number of ingredients in a product and indicators of nutritional quality and level of processing.