Exploring Nutrition Labelling of Food and Beverages in Vending Machines in Canadian Recreational Sport Settings

Publication: Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
15 November 2018


Purpose: To evaluate whether interpretive “health” labels placed in vending machines in recreation centres represented products’ nutrient content when compared with provincial nutrition guidelines.
Methods: A cross-sectional audit (November 2015 – April 2016) of 139 vending machines in recreation facilities found 525 foods and beverages in 17 machines labelled by vendors according to healthfulness. Product nutrient content was compared with provincial nutrition guideline criteria. Cross-tabulation and weighted Cohen’s kappa evaluated agreement between vendor interpretive labels and guideline ranks. Descriptive statistics evaluated how mislabelled products deviated from recommended nutrient content. Mann–Whitney tests compared nutrient content of “healthy” and “unhealthy” labelled products.
Results: Almost one-third of all products were mislabelled by vendors with 72% of those labelled healthier than their actual guideline rank. Energy, total fat, sugar, and sodium contents exceeded recommended levels in one-third to one-half of mislabelled products. Overall, products labelled healthy by vendors were significantly lower in energy, sodium, and fat compared with those labelled unhealthy; however, not for all food types (e.g., bars, fruit snacks, nuts).
Conclusions: For certain product categories, vendor interpretive nutrition labels poorly represented products’ nutrient content according to provincial nutrition guidelines. Dietitians may be a valuable resource to help implement nutrition guidelines to create credible interpretive product labelling systems.


Objectif. Évaluer si les étiquettes permettant d’interpréter si des aliments sont « santé » qui sont placées dans les machines distributrices de centres de loisirs sont représentatives de la teneur nutritive véritable des produits si l’on se fie aux critères des directives provinciales en matière de nutrition.
Méthodes. Un audit transversal (novembre 2015 à avril 2016) de 139 machines situées dans des centres de loisirs a permis d’énumérer 525 aliments et boissons répartis dans 17 machines et étiquetés par les fournisseurs selon leur qualité nutritionnelle. La teneur nutritive des produits a été comparée aux critères des directives provinciales en matière de nutrition. Des tableaux croisés et des coefficients Kappa de Cohen pondérés ont mesuré la concordance entre les étiquettes interprétatives des fournisseurs et les critères des directives provinciales. Des analyses statistiques descriptives ont permis d’évaluer dans quelle mesure les produits mal étiquetés déviaient de la teneur nutritive recommandée. Des tests de Mann–Whitney ont comparé la teneur nutritive des produits étiquetés comme étant « sains » et « malsains ».
Résultats. Près du tiers des produits avaient été mal étiquetés par les fournisseurs, et 72 % avaient été étiquetés comme étant plus sains par rapport aux critères des directives provinciales. Les teneurs en énergie, en gras totaux, en sucre et en sodium dépassaient les quantités recommandées dans le cas d’un tiers à la moitié des produits mal étiquetés. Globalement, les produits étiquetés comme étant sains par les fournisseurs avaient une teneur en énergie, en sodium et en gras significativement plus faible que les produits étiquetés comme étant malsains; cependant, ce n’était pas le cas pour tous les types de produits (p. ex. barres, collations aux fruits et noix).
Conclusions. Pour certaines catégories de produits, les étiquettes interprétatives des fournisseurs reflétaient mal la teneur nutritive des produits si l’on se fie aux directives provinciales en matière de nutrition. Les diététistes pourraient constituer une ressource précieuse pour favoriser la mise en œuvre des directives en matière de nutrition et créer de systèmes d’étiquetage interprétatif crédibles pour les produits alimentaires.

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Financial support: This research received specific funding from the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada. R.P. is supported by a Canadian Institute for Health Research Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship—Doctoral Award, and a Women and Children Health Research Initiative Graduate Studentship funded by the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Conflict of interest: The authors declare they have no competing interest.


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cover image Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
Volume 80Number 2June 2019
Pages: 55 - 62


Version of record online: 15 November 2018



Rachel J.L. Prowse BSc, RD
School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB
Dona L. Tomlin MSc
School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC
Patti-Jean Naylor PhD
School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC
Kim D. Raine PhD, RD
School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB

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