Meal delivery apps (MDAs) are a rapidly growing part of the digital food environment in the WHO European Region. The implications of this multibillion 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.
The research on which this report is based was funded by the WHO Regional Office for Europe. Funding for the publication was received from the Government of the Russian Federation within the context of the NCDs Office.