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Raising the quality of the food supply

Information we receive influences our choices, habits, perceptions, and purchases. Véronique Provencher is working to improve the quality of the food supply so that we adopt a healthy diet without even having to try.

Véronique Provencher

Full professor at the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences
Chair of the Food Quality Observatory Scientific Committee

Team

  • Laurélie Trudel, M.Sc., Executive coordinator at the Observatory
  • Marie-Ève Labonté, P.Dt, PhD, assistant professor and co-researcher for Priority 1 at the Observatory
  • Sonia Pomerleau, P.Dt., M.Sc., research professional
  • Mylène Turcotte, P.Dt., M.Sc, research professional
  • Julie Perron, P.Dt., M.Sc, research professional
  • Pierre Gagnon, statistician, research professional
  • Mario Lalancette, P.Dt., consultant
  • Marianne Dunlavey, P.Dt., Master’s candidate (co-director)
  • Jeanne Loignon, P.Dt., M.Sc. completed in December 2018

Tracking the quality of the food supply

Véronique Provencher is head of the Food Quality Observatory, created in 2015. Her research seeks to identify problems in the food supply in order to improve the quality of food offerings available to the population. The team will work with more than 30 partners to track 2 key policies in Québec: the government’s preventive health policy and the 2018–2025 Bio-food Policy. Researchers will provide accurate and objective information to guide policymakers in making decisions and changing practices.

Defining quality food

To monitor food quality, Véronique Provencher and her team use an approach that involves key players on the ground. They met with various stakeholders to identify existing monitoring tools in Québec. Over the course of their meetings, the team found that there is no clear or common definition of “quality” food. They then reviewed the literature to define the criteria characterizing a quality food supply and the elements (availability, price, quantity, etc.) to be assessed in order to draw a reliable picture.

Documenting available foods

The researcher and her team are also working to identify all the products available in a given food category and list all related information. For example, the team purchased all the breakfast cereals available in Québec. They then entered the information on the package (bar codes, nutrition information, logos, etc.) on a spreadsheet. By comparing that information with purchase data, the research shows how each product ranks against the others and makes it possible to track nutrition quality.

Sliced bread on a wood board.

The team has already analyzed breakfast cereals, sliced bread, sandwich meats, soups, granola bars, and frozen meals.

Stack of magazines on a table.

The team has already analyzed breakfast cereals, sliced bread, sandwich meats, soups, granola bars, and frozen meals.

A child eats breakfast cereals.

Cereals with packaging that appeals to children have more sugar than those that target the general public.

A man reads the nutrition information on the back of a cereal box in a grocery aisle.

The Observatory is driving change to support the practices of the biofood industry, policymakers, and Quebecers.

Aerial view of Université Laval campus, in Quebec City.

A master’s student is researching food offerings near high schools.

What's next

In an ideal world, Dr. Provencher would like to see food offerings so good that we would choose quality food without even thinking about it. She will continue to work with the Observatory team to develop decision-making tools for government policymakers. She also wants to share her research results with manufacturers and retailers so they too can improve their products and practices. Her ultimate wish: make food more approachable through objective and understandable information.

Food Quality Observatory

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