‘Healthier Vending in Scotland’
Introduction: Obesity is a significant public health issue in Scotland. Vending machines have long been criticised for their contribution to an obesogenic environment as they provide easy access to nutritionally poor food and beverage items. In October 2018, BDA Work Ready published the report ‘Healthier Vending – Criteria for ‘Better Choice’ and ‘Healthy Choice’ products’, which entails guidance for the vending industry to assist them in making healthier food and drink more accessible. Since the criteria has been published, there is no indication as to whether the vending industry within public organisations are using BDA’s recommendations to increase the availability and accessibility of healthier food and drink products. Aims and Objectives: This study aims to investigate if organisations in Dumfries and Galloway are following BDA criteria for ‘Better Choices’ for vending to provide access to healthy food and beverages. This study also investigates the types of food and drink products stocked in vending machines and the nutritional content of these products. Methodology: An observational cross-sectional approach was carried out to identify a minimum of 20 stocked vending machines in public settings, such as hospitals and sports centres in Dumfries and Galloway. All food and beverage products available were documented, and nutritional information of all products were recorded. All data collected was then analysed and compared to BDA ‘better choices’ criteria. Results: Across all 20 vending machines, sugar sweetened beverages represented an average of 69% (± 22) of all drinks available, in comparison to non-sugar sweetened beverages which represented an average of 31% (± 22). Confectionary snacks were the most commonly offered food product (62% (± 16)), followed by savoury snacks (31% (± 9)), cereal bars (5% (± 9)) and dried fruit and nuts (2% (± 4)). Whilst some vending machines met some aspects of ‘better choices’ criteria, no single vending machine observed across Dumfries and Galloway met all aspects of the established criteria to be classified as a ‘better vending machine’. Discussion: The findings of this study are similar to that of previous research, in that the availability and accessibility of energy dense and nutritionally poor food and beverage products in vending machines is excessive. The vending industry within public settings in Dumfries and Galloway demonstrate poor compliance with the BDA ‘Better Choices’ for vending criteria, as none of the vending machines observed met all aspects of the ‘better choices’ criteria. In future, exploration of the barriers to healthier vending is required to establish any reasons for the poor compliance observed.