We conducted a secondary analysis of publicly available food commodities data to describe changes in imports of sweetened beverages to Pacific Island countries between 2000 and 2015.
The United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UN Comtrade) was used to collect information on the types and volume (or weight) of SBs imported to Pacific Island countries, dollar value (in US dollars) and source countries from 2000 to 2015. The UN Comtrade has imports and exports information reported by statistical authorities from approximately two hundred countries or areas. It contains trade data from 1962 to the most recent year .
Pacific Island countries’ population data from year 2000 to 2015 was sourced from the Statistics for Development Division (SDD) of the Secretariat for the Pacific Community (SPC) and summed to give an estimate of the total population across all countries (Table 4 in Appendix 1) . Where data was missing for a country in a particular year, the missing data was inferred using linear regression analysis of all available data points (between 2000 and 2015).
We focused on 12 countries that are members of the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS), hereafter referred to as Pacific Island countries (PICs). These included Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Niue are also members of PIFS but import data were not available. Fiji and Tonga introduced SB taxes during the study period (Table 1). Average GDP for the12 included Pacific Island countries increased from USD 3.4 billion in 2000 to USD 8.9 billion in 2015 . In 2015, GDP in Fiji was USD 4.6 billion and Tonga was USD 0.4 billion .
We used the World Health Organization (WHO) nutrient profile model for the Western Pacific region to define SBs for this study . This model was designed to assist countries in making decisions about appropriate marketing of food and beverages to children. It provides nutrient cut-points for sugar, salt, and saturated fat in 18 food categories above which it is not recommended that foods be advertised to children. The model uses the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS code), an international standardised system of names and numbers for the classification of commodities, which is used by UN Comtrade. We defined SBs as HS Codes 20.09 (juices), 04.02 (milk drinks), 21.01.12 (tea and coffee), 22.02 (water, including mineral and aerated drinks) (Table 2; Table 5 in Appendix 2).
We conducted a linear regression analysis to describe trends in SB imports in kilograms per person per year for all 12 Pacific Island countries from 2000 to 2015. Upon visual inspection of the data, it was evident that an unusually large amount of SSBs were imported to Pacific Island Countries in 2010. After exploring stockpiling, slumps in domestic production, an increase in tourism, cyclones, and other potential explanations with colleagues in the Pacific we could not find evidence to explain the 2010 observation, and so we treated this as an outlier and removed 2010 values from the primary analysis. Sensitivity analyses including data for 2010 were not appreciably different to the primary analyses (Table 6 in Appendix 3). Descriptive analyses were conducted to determine which countries were the top exporters of SB to Pacific Island countries based on earnings (US dollars). We used world consumer price inflation data (annual % from 2000 to 2015) from the World Bank to adjust earnings for inflation (base year = 2015). Descriptive analysis was also used to determine trends over time in types of SBs (juices, milk drinks, tea and coffee, other) imported. To see if imports decreased following the introduction of taxes, we also conducted linear regression analyses to describe trends in SBs imports in kilograms per person per year for Fiji and Tonga.
We applied for and were granted an exemption for ethics approval by the Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee (2017–205).