Slide to order: a food systems approach to meal delivery apps

Fresh off the press! Our newest WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases report is out!

Meal delivery apps (‎MDAs)‎ are a rapidly growing part of the digital food environment in the WHO European Region. The implications of this multibillion Euro sector on health, nutrition, environment and society at large are not yet well understood. Past research has shown that meals purchased outside of the home can be less healthy than foods prepared at home and may lead to unhealthy dietary patterns, a risk factor for noncommunicable diseases. Emerging evidence also highlights the role of MDAs in extending the physical food environment and providing convenient access to unhealthy food and beverage options with the swipe of a finger. However, MDAs are a part of a wider food system and play a role in mediating between physical and digital food environments. Many existing government policies promoting healthy diets such as nutrition labelling and reformulation; however marketing restrictions may not yet apply to this novel sector. With this in mind, a food systems framework is used to assess the potential relationship between MDAs and health and nutrition outcomes. Recommendations are also made for methods to incentivize healthy and sustainable meals on MDAs.

Key messages:
📲 Use of meal delivery apps (MDAs) is growing in the WHO European Region.
📲 MDAs are understudied and, in almost all cases, current policy and legal frameworks do not apply to this component of digital food environments.
📲 MDAs mediate the linkages between physical and digital food environments by connecting meal providers with customers via online platforms.
📲 MDAs extend physical food environments in a variety of ways, such as providing delivery over longer distances, increasing the availability of foods and beverages and offering convenient meals for consumers.
📲 Current regulations for physical restaurants, for example regarding the display of nutritional information, do not necessarily apply to MDAs.
📲 MDAs are mainly used in major urban environments but are spreading to smaller cities and towns.
📲 A systems approach to MDAs is required to assess the impacts of MDAs on public health.
📲 Concerted action by food systems stakeholders is needed to ensure that adequate policies and regulations are adapted to the specific features of MDAs, for example regarding providing nutrition information to consumers and making healthier choices the most convenient and affordable options.

Download the report here!

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