Checkout data being used to encourage healthier diets

Grocery checkout data is being used as tool to combat unhealthy food choices

Researchers are now able to use checkout data in hopes of promoting healthier eating.

David Buckeridge, a McGill University researcher together with marketing and business experts, used the same digital data from supermarkets traditionally used by food marketers to allow health agencies to track food choices of Montrealers according to neighbourhood.

They looked at digital data captured by store scanners in Montreal between 2008 and 2010, then compared the results with census data showing socioeconomic characteristics of a neighbourhood.

Buckeridge said: “We developed a way to use these data towards a positive public health initiative: routine monitoring of eating habits over time in particular pockets of a city to reveal which populations consume foods that can contribute to negative health outcomes.”

Results from the first phase of the study showed that for each $10,000 decrease in median personal income, there was a fivefold increase in estimated monthly sales of soft drinks. Next, Buckeridge and his team will focus on all major dietary sugar coming from soda, juice, milk and fruit.

Together with public health agencies, researchers believe they'll be able to determine how these methods can be used to develop strategies to encourage healthier diets.

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