Street Food in Eastern Europe: A Perspective From an Urban Environment in Moldova

Br J Nutr. 2020 Jun 9;1-23. doi: 10.1017/S0007114520002020. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Street food is popular in Eastern Europe, but its diversity and nutritional value is unknown. This study aimed to characterise the street food environment in Chișinău, Moldova, including the vending sites and vendors, food availability and nutritional composition of foods and beverages. All street food vending sites (single points of sale) located in a 1-km buffer centred on the main public market were systematically selected (n=439; n=328 participants). Data on vending sites' characteristics (mobility, type of physical setup and access to electricity), operating periods and food availability was collected. Samples of the most commonly available foods of unknown composition were collected (28 homemade; 24 industrial). Macronutrients, sodium and potassium were quantified through chemical analysis. Fruit, beverages and food other than fruit were available in 2.5%, 74.3% and 80.8% of the vending sites. Among the latter, 66.4% sold only industrial (e.g. pretzels, biscuits, wafers, chocolate and ice-cream), 21.5% only homemade (e.g. savoury and sweet pastries) and 12.1% both. Homemade foods presented larger serving sizes and energy/serving (median kcal/serving: 313.7 vs. 160.2, p=0.022); industrial foods were more energy-dense (median kcal/100g: 429.5 vs. 303.5, p=0.002). High saturated, trans-fat and sodium content was found, reaching 10.9 g/serving, 1.4 g/serving and 773.7 mg/serving, respectively. Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages were available in 80.7% and 42.0% of the vending sites selling beverages. Concluding, industrial snacks and homemade pastries high in sodium and unhealthy fat, were frequent in Chișinău. Prevention of diet-related diseases in Moldova may benefit from the improvement of the nutritional profile of street food.

Keywords: Eastern Europe; food processing; nutritional value; ready-prepared foods; street food.