Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Variations in fresh fruit and vegetable quality by store type, urban–rural setting and neighbourhood deprivation in Scotland

Steven Cumminsa1 c1, Dianna M Smitha1, Mathew Taylora2, John Dawsona2a3a4, David Marshalla2, Leigh Sparksa3 and Annie S Andersona5

a1 Healthy Environments Research Programme, Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK

a2 Marketing Group, University of Edinburgh Business School, Edinburgh, UK

a3 Institute for Retail Studies University of Stirling, Stirling, UK

a4 ESADE, Barcelona, Spain

a5 Centre for Public Health Nutrition Research, Ninewells Medical School, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK


Objective Neighbourhood differences in access to fresh fruit and vegetables may explain social inequalities in diet. Investigations have focused on variations in cost and availability as barriers to the purchase and consumption of fresh produce; investigations of quality have been neglected. Here we investigate whether produce quality systematically varies by food store type, rural–urban location and neighbourhood deprivation in a selection of communities across Scotland.

Design Cross-sectional survey of twelve fresh fruit and vegetable items in 288 food stores in ten communities across Scotland. Communities were selected to reflect a range of urban–rural settings and a food retail census was conducted in each location. The quality of twelve fruit and vegetable items within each food store was evaluated. Data from the Scottish Executive were used to characterise each small area by deprivation and urban–rural classification.

Setting Scotland.

Results Quality of fruit and vegetables within the surveyed stores was high. Medium-sized stores, stores in small town and rural areas, and stores in more affluent areas tended to have the highest-quality fresh fruit and vegetables. Stores where food is secondary, stores in urban settings and stores in more deprived areas tended have the lowest-quality fresh produce. Although differences in quality were not always statistically significant, patterns were consistent for the majority of fruit and vegetable items.

Conclusions The study provides evidence that variations in food quality may plausibly be a micro-environmental mediating variable in food purchase and consumption and help partially explain neighbourhood differences in food consumption patterns.

(Received August 27 2008)

(Accepted December 18 2008)

(Online publication February 26 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Email