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Comparing the accuracy of two secondary food environment data sources in the UK across socio-economic and urban/rural divides

Thomas Burgoine1* and Flo Harrison2

Author Affiliations

1 UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), Institute of Public Health, Box 296, Forvie Site, Robinson Way, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 0SR, UK

2 UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK

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International Journal of Health Geographics 2013, 12:2  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-12-2

Published: 17 January 2013



Interest in the role of food environments in shaping food consumption behaviours has grown in recent years. However, commonly used secondary food environment data sources have not yet been fully evaluated for completeness and systematic biases. This paper assessed the accuracy of UK Points of Interest (POI) data, compared to local council food outlet data for the county of Cambridgeshire.


Percentage agreement, positive predictive values (PPVs) and sensitivities were calculated for all food outlets across the study area, by outlet type, and across urban/rural/SES divisions.


Percentage agreement by outlet type (29.7-63.5%) differed significantly to overall percentage agreement (49%), differed significantly in rural areas (43%) compared to urban (52.8%), and by SES quintiles. POI data had an overall PPV of 74.9%, differing significantly for Convenience Stores (57.9%), Specialist Stores (68.3%), and Restaurants (82.6%). POI showed an overall ‘moderate’ sensitivity, although this varied significantly by outlet type. Whilst sensitivies by urban/rural/SES divides varied significantly from urban and least deprived reference categories, values remained ‘moderate’.


Results suggest POI is a viable alternative to council data, particularly in terms of PPVs, which remain robust across urban/rural and SES divides. Most variation in completeness was by outlet type; lowest levels were for Convenience Stores, which are commonly cited as ‘obesogenic’.

Food environment; Secondary data; Data completeness; Geographic information systems