A Trial to Determine the Effects of a Behavioural Communication Strategy on Salt Levels in Foods

Protocol for a Cluster-randomized Trial to Determine the Effects of a Behavioural Communication Strategy on the Salt Levels of Processed Foods

Sponsors

Lead Sponsor: The George Institute

Source The George Institute
Brief Summary

A clustered-randomized controlled trial in which 45 food companies are the unit of randomization. The intervention companies will receive an advocacy program which comprises of commonly used advocacy actions, incorporating a theory of change model. The control companies will have no specific intervention targeted at them. The aim of this study is to quantify the effects of advocacy delivered by a local non-government organization on the salt content of food products produced or marketed by companies in Australia.

Detailed Description

The product formulations of processed packaged foods frequently require added salt. Salt reduction in these foods is a focus of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in an effort to reduce diet related disease. Evidence suggests that advocacy does have the potential to influence corporate behaviour but few robust data exist to describe the effects of NGO actions on food companies' salt reduction efforts.

A food composition database was used to select eligible food companies in Australia which were then classified into three strata based on company ownership, size of company and industry sector. Of the 45 food companies, 23 were randomised to the control group, and 22 to the intervention. The sample will provide 80% power to detect a difference of 50mg/100g in mean sodium levels assuming a mean of 430mg/100g, standard deviation of 300mg/100g and intracluster correlation coefficient (ICC) of 0.05 using a two-sided T-test with a significance level of 0.05.

The control group will have no specific intervention targeted at them but specific requests of the study team will be acted upon within the resources available. The intervention group will receive an advocacy program which comprises of commonly used advocacy actions, incorporating a theory of change model.

Data for the study will derive from periodic surveys of the characteristics of included companies, annual surveys of the composition of the processed foods they provide and an advocacy log recording all elements of the intervention program.

The study is being conducted by an Australian NGO over two years between December 2013-2015. Ethics approval to collect survey questionnaire and interview data from food companies has been obtained from the Human Research Ethics Committee at the University of Sydney.

This study will provide evidence about the potential for an Australian advocacy program to influence corporate behaviour and the quality of the processed food supply in Australia. Whether the program is effective or not the results, which use a novel experimental approach, will have important implications for the future of Australian efforts to reduce the large burden of disease caused by poor diet - a positive finding will highlight the need for investment in advocacy whilst a negative result will reinforce the importance of other, policy-based initiatives for the improvement of the food supply.

Overall Status Completed
Start Date December 2013
Completion Date June 2016
Primary Completion Date June 2016
Phase N/A
Study Type Interventional
Primary Outcome
Measure Time Frame
Mean sodium content change as measured by sodium content (mg) per 100g of food product Two years
Secondary Outcome
Measure Time Frame
The number of and type of publicly available statements from food companies expressing support / non-support for healthier processed foods as measured by a count of statements. 18 months
The number of food companies with a nutrition policy published on their website, as measured by a count 18 months
The level of engagement with the non-government organization, as measured by a count of pre-defined methods of communication from the food company 18 months
The number of companies supporting the use of salt replacers / technologies in food processing to reduce the quantity of sodium required in processing, as measured by a questionnaire 18 months
The number of companies supporting national salt reduction initiatives as measured by a count of public pledges 18 months
The number of companies providing evidence of planned salt reduction as measured by a count of the plans / commitments to salt reduction 18 months
Enrollment 45
Condition
Intervention

Intervention Type: Other

Intervention Name: Advocacy

Description: See above for description

Arm Group Label: Advocacy program

Eligibility

Criteria:

Inclusion Criteria:

The unit of randomization is a food company. Food companies were included if they had

- Australian based production, distribution or marketing of processed foods.

- 20 or more processed food items recorded in a food composition database (2011).

- the types of food they manufacturer are likely to contain added salt, sugars or saturated fats.

Exclusion Criteria:

- No identifiable Australian operation.

- Less than 20 processed food items recorded in a food composition database (2011).

- A company was known to be in receivership.

Gender: All

Minimum Age: N/A

Maximum Age: N/A

Healthy Volunteers: No

Overall Official
Last Name Role Affiliation
Bruce Neal, PhD Principal Investigator The George Institute
Verification Date

May 2017

Responsible Party

Type: Sponsor

Has Expanded Access No
Number Of Arms 2
Arm Group

Label: Advocacy program

Type: Experimental

Description: A series of commonly used advocacy actions which will incorporate a theory of change model. Each advocacy action is targeted to change organizational capability, opportunity, or motivation of food companies to reduce salt in processed packaged foods. The intervention will span 24 months from 2013-2015.

Label: Control

Type: No Intervention

Description: No intervention program

Study Design Info

Allocation: Randomized

Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment

Primary Purpose: Other

Masking: None (Open Label)

Source: ClinicalTrials.gov