a1 Department of Food Safety and Food Quality, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, B-9000 Gent, Belgium
a2 Nutrition and Child Health Unit, Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium
Objective To review how countries of the WHO European Region address issues related to the catering sector in their nutrition policy plans.
Design Documentary analysis of national nutrition policy documents from the policy database of the WHO Regional Office for Europe by a multidisciplinary research team. Recurring themes were identified and related information extracted in an analysis matrix. Case studies were performed for realistic evaluation.
Setting Fifty-three member states of the WHO European Region in September 2007.
Results The catering sector is a formally acknowledged stakeholder in national nutrition policies in about two-thirds of countries of the European region. Strategies developed for the catering sector are directed mainly towards labelling of foods and prepared meals, training of health and catering staff, and advertising. Half of the countries reviewed propose dialogue structures with the catering sector for the implementation of the policy. However, important policy fields remain poorly developed, such as strategies for stimulating and monitoring actual implementation of policies. Others are simply lacking, such as strategies to ensure affordability of healthy out-of-home eating or to enhance accountability of stakeholders. It is also striking that strategies for the private sector are rarely developed.
Conclusions Important policy issues are still embryonic. As evidence is accumulating on the impact of out-of-home eating on the increase of overweight, member states are advised to urgently develop operational frameworks and instruments for participatory planning and evaluation of stakeholders in public health nutrition policy.
(Received September 17 2007)
(Accepted February 25 2008)