Associations between the food environment and purchasing • BMC Public Health

Here’s a new journal article in BMC Public Health led by our student Alexandra Kalbus, co-supervised at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. [open access article] [PDF version]

Title: “Associations between the food environment and food and drink purchasing using large-scale commercial purchasing data: a cross-sectional study”

Authors: Alexandra Kalbus, Laura Cornelsen, Andrea Ballatore, Steven Cummins

Publication: BMC Public Health (volume 23, article number 72, 2023) •


Background. Evidence for an association between the local food environment, diet and diet-related disease is mixed, particularly in the UK. One reason may be the use of more distal outcomes such as weight status and cardiovascular disease, rather than more proximal outcomes such as food purchasing. This study explores associations between food environment exposures and food and drink purchasing for at-home and out-of-home (OOH) consumption.

Photo by Pixabay on

Methods. We used item-level food and drink purchase data for London and the North of England, UK, drawn from the 2019 Kantar Fast Moving Consumer Goods panel to assess associations between food environment exposures and household-level take-home grocery (n=2,118) and individual-level out-of-home (n=447) food and drink purchasing. Density, proximity and relative composition measures were created for both supermarkets and OOH outlets (restaurants and takeaways) using a 1 km network buffer around the population-weighted centroid of households’ home postcode districts. Associations between food environment exposure measures and frequency of take-home food and drink purchasing, total take-home calories, calories from fruits and vegetables, high fat, salt and sugar products, and ultra-processed foods (UPF), volume of take-home alcoholic beverages, and frequency of OOH purchasing were modelled using negative binomial regression adjusted for area deprivation, population density, and individual and household socio-economic characteristics.

Results. There was some evidence for an inverse association between distance to OOH food outlets and calories purchased from ultra-processed foods (UPF), with a 500 m increase in distance to the nearest OOH outlet associated with a 1.1% reduction in calories from UPF (IR=0.989, 95%CI 0.982–0.997, p=0.040). There was some evidence for region-specific effects relating to purchased volumes of alcohol. However, there was no evidence for an overall association between food environment exposures and take-home and OOH food and drink purchasing.

Conclusions. Despite some evidence for exposure to OOH outlets and UPF purchases, this study finds limited evidence for the impact of the food environment on household food and drink purchasing. Nonetheless, region-specific effects regarding alcohol purchasing indicate the importance of geographical context for research and policy.