The nutritional composition of foods and beverages consumed away from the home has important implications for population health. Our objective was to determine if the serve size, energy, and sodium contents of fast foods sold at chain restaurants in New Zealand (NZ) changed between 2012 and 2016.
Serve size and nutrient data were collected in annual cross-sectional surveys of all products sold at 10 major fast food chains. Changes over time may occur due to alterations in product availability or individual product reformulation. Linear regression adjusting for food group and chain was used to estimate overall changes in serve size and nutrients. Random effects mixed models were used to estimate reformulation changes on same products available for two or more years.
Across all products (n = 5468) increases were observed in mean serve size (+ 9 (3, 15) g, + 5%), energy density (+ 54 (27, 81) kJ/100 g, + 6%), energy per serve (+ 178 (125, 231) kJ, + 14%), and sodium per serve (+ 55 (24, 87) mg, + 12%). Sodium density did not change significantly. Four of 12 food groups (Desserts, Pizza, Sandwiches, and Salads) and four of 10 fast food chains (Domino's, Hell Pizza, Pizza Hut, and Subway) displayed large, undesirable changes for three or more (of five) outcomes (≥10%; p < 0.05). One food group (Asian) and one chain (St Pierre's) displayed large, desirable changes for two or more outcomes. The only significant reformulation change was a drop in sodium density (- 22 (- 36, - 8) mg/100 g, - 7%).
The serve size and energy density of NZ fast food products has increased significantly over the past 5 years. Lower sodium concentration in new and reformulated products has been offset by overall increases in serve size. Continued monitoring and development and implementation of Government-led targets for serve size and nutrient content of new and existing fast food products are required.