To review how countries of the WHO European Region address issues related to the catering sector in their nutrition policy plans.
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.
Fifty-three member states of the WHO European Region in September 2007.
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.
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.
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