Deliveroo dishes out junk food deals to the obese – Food Active response

by Beth Bradshaw | 20 May, 2019 9:14 am

As reported in The Sunday Times article ‘Deliveroo dishes up junk food deals to the obese’[1] (12.05.19), we agree that third-party delivery companies such as Deliveroo, UberEats and JustEat are further exacerbating the UK’s obesity epidemic and levels of health inequalities that persist in our most deprived communities.

The article reported that Deliveroo promotes party buckets of fried chicken (14 pieces of fried cicken, 8 fillets, 8 wings and a popcorn chicken) to poorer postcodes with higher levels of obesity, such as Doncaster and Rotherham, where 7/10 of the population are overweight or obese. By contrast, the article reported that in more affluent and healthier areas such as Clifton in Bristol, featured restaurants included Wagamama and Yo! Sushi.

In 21st century life, consuming and purchasing  food and drink outside of the home plays an increasingly important role in the UK population’s dietary intake, as more and more of us purchase and consume foods outside the home on a daily basis. The UK has seen a 53% increase in the number of places to eat out-of-home (hereafter OOH – including fast food outlets, takeaways, restaurants and cafes) between 2005-2015[1][2]. It is now estimated that one in four places to buy food are fast food outlets in England – a 8% increase since June 2014[2][3]. There is lots of research to suggest that suggests meals eaten OOH tend to be associated with higher intakes of energy, total fat, saturated fat, free sugars and salt especially when compared to the UK Dietary Reference Values[3][4],[4][5],[5][6].

This has unquestionably played an important role in the development of the current obesity crisis that we are currently facing in the UK.

But the issue is exacerbated by the fact that the proliferation of fast food outlets has been far greater in areas of higher levels of deprivation, when compared to more affluent areas[6][7]. Research has shown that areas that are already struggling with higher levels of health inequalities are far greater exposed to less healthy food and drink, through numerous local outlets selling food and drink that is high in fat, sugar and salt. Here in the North West of England, we have some of the highest densities of takeaway outlets in the country – in 2017, Blackburn was named as ‘takeaway capital of England’ in The Guardian[7][8], following the publication of a new food environment assessment tool from CEDAR that provides numbers of outlets per 1,000 residents. The stark contrast in the availability of fast food and takeaways between the most and least deprived communities is illustrated in the Guardian graphic below – the patterns follow a similar North-South Divide that we have seen for decades when it has come to health inequalities.

Food Active supports local government organisations across England in the use of policy levers to address the prevalence of fast food outlets in town and cities, and restrict the marketing of food and drink products that are high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) through our Local Government Declaration on Healthy Weight, which has now been signed by over 15 local authorities across England. Many have recognised the importance of tackling the issue of fast food outlets popping up in their most deprived communities. However, third-party delivery companies are undermining some of the excellent work currently being undertaken by local councils to restrict the proliferation of fast food outlets and takeaways through Supplementary Planning Documents, whilst confounding support offered to local businesses to reformulate meal options to contain less fat, sugar and salt (Blackpool Council have been .

The Sunday Times article also correctly highlights that by promoting less healthy options in deprived areas, third-party delivery companies are also fuelling the concept of ‘food desserts’ in areas of high deprivation, where access to nutritious food at an affordable price is already limited.

The article highlights the significant power of data-driven marketing techniques to influence purchasing of HFSS products, in particular in those communities that are most affected by health inequalities. We therefore advise that UK Government should consider this new form of pernicious marketing within the context of the recent Childhood Obesity Plan Chapter 2 consultations, specifically those looking at restricting promotions on less healthy food and drink, and introducing additional restrictions on broadcast TV and online marketing of less healthy food and drink.


[1][9] The Food Foundation. Force-fed. Does the food system constrict healthy choices for typical British family? 2016


[2][10] The Food Foundation (2019) The Broken Plate [online] Available at:[11] [Accessed: 26th February 2019]

[3][12] Jaworowska AM, Blackham T, Long R, Taylor C, Ashton M, Stevenson L, Glynn Davies I. Nutritional composition of takeaway food in the UK. Nutrition & Food Science. 2014;44:414–30.


[4][13] Lachat C, Nago E, Verstraeten R, Roberfroid D, Van Camp J, Kolsteren P. Eating out of home and its association with dietary intake: a systematic review of the evidence. Obes Rev. 2012;13:329–46.


[5][14] Summerbell CD, Douthwaite W, Whittaker V, Ells LJ, Hillier F, Smith S, Kelly S, Edmunds LD, Macdonald I. The association between diet and physical activity and subsequent excess weight gain and obesity assessed at 5 years of age or older: a systematic review.


[6][15] Public Health England (2016) Obesity and the environment: density of fast food outlets [online] Available at:[16] [Accessed: 18th October 2018]



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