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Supporting policy with scientific evidence

We mobilise people and resources to create, curate, make sense of and use knowledge to inform policymaking across Europe.

Publication | 2021

Review: Retail consumer price data reveal gaps and opportunities to monitor food systems for nutrition


  • Access to healthy diets depends on retail prices for diverse foods in local markets.
  • Consumer prices for retail items have different dynamics than commodity prices.
  • Retail prices are now collected and used to monitor inflation and food aid needs.
  • All countries have demonstrated ability to collect and report prices quickly.
  • Reporting item prices and indexes by nutritional food group could help guide policy.


Policies and programs to improve global nutrition increasingly aim to improve diet quality through systemic change in food environments, often focusing on the availability and price of diverse food items. Almost all of the world’s governments conduct nationally representative surveys of retail establishments every month and publish a consumer price index (CPI) to guide economic policy, but use of these data to improve food markets and nutrition has been limited. This study describes all of the publicly available monthly CPI data by food group, region and income level for every country of the world in 2019 and 2020. A total of 170 governments currently report overall food CPIs, of which 58 also report more disaggregated indexes for different types of foods, and 49 report price levels for at least some individual food items. To address gaps in coverage we compared these CPI data with prices from international agencies’ Early Warning Systems (EWS) designed to help target agricultural assistance and food aid, which covered a total of 95 countries in 2019 and 2020. The EWS data include many lower-income countries that do not post their CPI data publicly, but often omit the diverse, perishable foods that would be needed to improve nutrition and health. We conclude that national governments and international agencies could help meet global development goals with more standardized and timely reporting about more diverse foods, for use in guiding new investments towards universal access to healthy diets at all times.