Monitoring ultra-processed food consumption in Australia: novel dietary assessment tools and indicators for a national nutrition surveillance system

This PhD project aims to develop and test novel dietary assessment tools and indicators to monitor ultra-processed food consumption in Australia, and explore how these innovations can be applied in a national nutrition surveillance system. The PhD may include development of a digital infrastructure (e.g., software, app or web-based tools) or adaptation of existing platforms to support with dietary data collection and data sharing in the future.

Project supervisor(s)

Dr Priscila Machado and Dr Rebecca Leech



Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) are defined within the Nova food classification system as formulations of ingredients, mostly of exclusive industrial use, that result from a series of industrial processes. These are often ready-to-eat, palatable, affordable, heavily promoted and conveniently packaged products. In Australia, half of the diet is comprised of UPFs. The increased consumption of UPFs is a key driver of the nutrition transition, particularly leading to several adverse health outcomes (e.g., heart diseases, type-2 diabetes, depression, and mortality). UPF consumption is also troublesome from a broad social, cultural, economic, and environmental perspective.

As evidence of the adverse impacts of UPFs grows, researchers and policymakers are becoming more interested in applying the concept in studies and policies. Nevertheless, the ability to analyse and monitor UPF consumption is challenging because frequently dietary assessment tools (e.g., 24-hour recalls, food frequency questionnaires) vary widely and lack details about food processing or are not designed to identify UPFs. As Australia moves towards establishing a comprehensive national nutrition surveillance system, identifying meaningful indicators for UPF consumption based on valid dietary assessment tools is needed.

Applications are invited for a PhD candidate to work under the supervision of Dr Priscila Machado (primary supervisor), Dr Rebecca Leech (associate supervisor) and Professor Sarah McNaughton (external supervisor).

Applicants must meet Deakin’s PhD entry requirements, be enrolling full time and hold an Honours degree (First Class) or an equivalent standard Master’s degree with a substantial research component. Please refer to the entry pathways to higher degrees by research for further information.

The opportunity is open to domestic and international students.

Fluency in verbal and written English (evidence of English proficiency is required), highly motivated and able to effectively communicate as part of a team.

Applicants should ideally have a background in nutrition, dietetics, or public health, experience in quantitative methods, and a critical analysis approach to nutrition science and public health.

Important dates

Applications will be accepted until 31 August 2024, or until a suitable candidate is found.

Expected commencement date: February – April 2025


A PhD scholarship is provided.

Refer to HDR Scholarship for more information about the scholarship benefits, duration and eligibility.

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