Mavra Ahmed, Postdoctoral Fellow, PhD

Department of Nutritional Sciences
University of Toronto

Dr. Mavra Ahmed is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Joannah and Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition, University of Toronto. Mavra has experience in nutrition and food policy and clinical nutrition with strong expertise in research methods, with extensive collaborations with both private and public partners.

Mavra obtained her PhD, specializing in characterization of dietary intakes of Canadian Armed Forces and evaluation of novel technologies for assessing diets. She also holds a CIHR Fellowship in the Strategic Training Program in Public Health Policy. Mavra has expertise in dietary assessments, including computing intakes of energy, nutrients and other dietary constituents using food composition tables and in the use of the NCI method and SAS macros for analyzing national nutrition survey data.

Her current research focuses on exploring the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in evaluating the Canadian food environment, specifically the impact of the nutritional value of foods on health outcomes and in relation to help guide Canadian nutrition policy development, implementation and evaluation and in order to help Canadian consumers eat healthy and manage chronic diseases. She is also spearheading a major research initiative on school nutrition research that aims to identify best practices in relation to the design, delivery, and measurement of school food programs.

Front-of-Package Labelling: Perspectives on implementation and the impact of front-of-package labels on consumers’ food choices, perceptions and health outcomes

Purpose: With the mandatory proposal of front-of-pack labels (FOPL) ‘high-in’ warning labels in Canada, this symposium is timely as it evaluates the impact of FOPL on consumers’ food choices and health outcomes, perceptions of healthfulness and purchasing intentions and food reformulation.

Rationale: Many consumers find it difficult and time-consuming to identify healthier foods using only the current nutrition information provided on food packages. With the growing burden of obesity and diet-related diseases, FOP nutrition labels may support and enable healthier food choices by consumers and can lead to reformulation of food products by industry. Mandatory FOPL was proposed in Canada to highlight foods with high contents of sugars, sodium and/or saturated fats, however this policy is pending regulatory approval.

As such, this symposium brings a timely perspective on the introduction of FOPL by presenting evidence from Canada and Latin America on implementation and the potential impact of consumer-friendly FOP labelling as a nutrition intervention that can enable consumers to make healthier food choices and impact diet-related non-communicable diseases. Through this symposium, we hope to disseminate knowledge on the potential of FOP labelling as effective nutrition interventions in promoting healthy behavioural changes, with potential to modulate health outcomes, and encouraging healthier product reformulations, hence transforming the food environment.

Learning Objectives:

1)To describe the role of FOP labels on food products, including benefits for health and challenges associated with the development and implementation of effective front-of-package systems

2)To illustrate the impact of FOP (traffic light, health star rating and ‘high in’ labels) on consumers’ food choices and health outcomes and perceptions of healthfulness in comparison to the current food labelling

3)To facilitate a discussion on comparable effectiveness of various FOP labelling systems on purchasing intentions and consumer understanding

4)To demonstrate the potential of FOP to encourage industry to improve the quality of food supply

5)To appraise nutrition-related public health policies aimed at creating supportive food environments and reducing chronic disease risk.