Application of nutrient profile models to compare products offered in 'healthy' vs 'conventional' vending machines in a Spanish hospital environment

Public Health. 2020 Feb;179:135-146. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2019.10.007. Epub 2019 Dec 4.


Introduction: Vending machines promote easy access to food with low nutritional value. 'Healthy' vending machines (HVM) have been introduced as a means to improve the availability and accessibility of healthy food options, and the healthiness of the foods, however, has not been evaluated.

Objective: Our aim was to assess the healthiness of the products offered in HVM and 'conventional' vending machines (CVM), located in the Catalan Institute of Oncology.

Study design and methods: All products available in vending machines (HVM (n = 33) and CVM (n = 62) were evaluate during three nutrient profile models (NPMs): the World Health Organization's European Regional Office model (WHO), Nutrient Profile Model UK (NPM-UK), and Australian Health Star Rating system (HSR).

Results: Regardless of the NPM used, significant differences found in the proportion of healthy products among HVM and CVM (WHO: P-value = 0.005, NPM-UK: P value < 0.001, HSR: P-value < 0.001). The healthy products offered in HVM accounted for 30%, 73%, and 52% of the total content, while CVM offered 6%, 32%, and 15% of the content, as assessed by WHO, NPM-UK, and HSR, respectively. The WHO model was the most restrictive model, and the NPM-UK was the most permissible one.

Conclusions: Although not all products in HVM are rated as healthy by the different NPMs, the percentage of healthy products was significantly higher than those in CVM.

Keywords: Dietary guidelines; Hospital environment; Nutrient profile models; Public health; Vending machines.

MeSH terms

  • Food / statistics & numerical data*
  • Food Dispensers, Automatic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Nutritive Value*
  • Spain