Watermelon at 2 euros, palm trees at 0.60: the ' vending ' health ' pitfalls

Health is one of the factors that more in mind, together with the price and the pleasure or satisfaction that the consumers obtain, in the sale of foodstuffs . Whatever context it is. In fact, the health concept, whether real or attributed, has been escalating since a couple of decades ago to this part, so that — for those who can afford it — the health image that a particular product offers is without a doubt the Main purchase engine.

Vending, machines that serve food in workplaces, airports, stations or hospitals among others, is no exception. Much less if we consider the most common nutritional characteristics that in a classic way have defined the food supply of these machines: food framed mostly in group IV in terms of processing according to the Claseficación NOVA, ie Ultraprocessed, which at least until now contained the highest amount of sugars, processed fats and salt added, which makes them not advisable to take the nutritional point of view. In this sense, it could be said that vending is part of a position where the prospects for improvement are infinite or virtually inexhaustible.

In Spain, pushed by a current initiated in other countries of our environment towards a healthy vending (France, Portugal, Italy...) The sector moves, clearly, in that direction. In fact, and as an example of how this adaptation takes place, there are various public, private or social institutions that claim, or celebrate, that turn towards healthy vending . An example of this is the work they do from the Twitter account @ChangingVending.

There is no law regulating what is a healthy food in machines

As far as legislation is, the first thing to know is that there is no unified text indicating in the national panorama which are the characteristics of the products contained in a healthy vending machine, or where they can be located according to its contents. And the second thing to know is that these things have never been of those on which a special follow-up of their fulfillment is made.

In any case we have a law of 2011 on Food safety and nutrition, which states in its article 40.6 that in schools the sale of food and beverages with a high content of saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, salt and sugars will not be allowed and That these contents will be established regulations.

But there is no specific regulation regulation, except that of some autonomous communities that have been concerned about these issues, as in the case, for example, Andalusia, Valencia, Murcia, etc. But let's not forget that the existence of regulation is one thing and that this is fulfilled is another.

The food reformulation plan, which we already have in BuenaVida, contemplates the commitment to improve the supply and nutritional quality: "Vendings will offer twice as much reformulated food as now and up to 50% more balanced products. And will reduce the maximum dose of sugar in hot beverage machines by 15%, "said the Minister of Health, Dolors Monserrat.

What is interpreted as healthy vending? (The disguise)

The strategy that is being followed, at least initially, to offer this healthy vending has sometimes started on the continent forgetting the content, with posters in the environment of the machine in question that say "Your healthy Corner", " Take care of yourself, "or already passing the English,"Healthy","fit corner"or things like that. the same machine as before, with its same offer, but now with Molón poster.

There are those who have opted for no less confusing strategies. Within the new options that we can find, it is observed that not seldom it is taken the radish by the leaves and that what can be acquired in this type of machines are products with allegations relative to collectives. That is, messages of the type "lactose", "Gluten Free", "vegan", "Eco"... Or in another order of things, "no colorants or preservatives", "Sugar Free", "Mediterranean", "Light", "0%", "natural", etc.

Let's see: a cookie with organic wheat syrup (sugar, after all) may have the same amount of sugar (as well as other ingredients) than another current and hot cookie; A "vegan" candy bar has the same chance of being a lousy choice as another candy bar that does not carry such an allegation; That something does not have lactose does not mean that nutritionally is not a chestnut; not to mention something that at the same time manifests in this environment being "gluten-free". Et cetera. And to the "Mediterranean", "natural" appetizers, to the sports drinks and to the French fries with salt of Formentera the same verdict applies to them.

Most of all of these products have only healthy their — purported — appearance. Making this type of election means going beyond many other truly more appropriate options.

Another tactic used to get the goal healthy while we are in front of the machine in question is to highlight the presence of a specific nutrient that has a complacent image in the consumer. It's called "nutritionism" and usually represents a tripping for our "health" interests. For example "with 50% of the recommended daily amount of iron" to encourage the purchase of industrial pastries. And who says iron says vitamin C, fiber, omega 3, proteins or whatever it tercie to sound good. It depends on each product.

nor are good choices for their health interests the products destined commercially for athletes (energetic bars, various beverages, etc.). or those that incorporate key ingredients based on "superfoods" and that at all times are in the limelight (mention that the product carries kale, chia, quinoa, goji berries or stevia). None of these products offered as healthy usually approve the review of the NOVA classification regarding their processing. However, at least a large majority of them fall into group IV (ultraprocessed). Yes, although it is a stick of organic wholemeal bread with rosemary aroma and extra virgin olive oil.

Healthy Vending is a oxymoron (reality)

In the words of one of the interprofessionals who watch over the health of the vendingsector, it is necessary to reach a meeting point between a healthy offer and the benefits of the sector itself. The problem is that the profit margin with the classic offer is several orders of magnitude higher than what you get with the implementation of truly healthy options. The ultraprocessed products have lower production and logistic costs than the possible fresh options that fight to make a hole in these devices.

One of the best known options in our environment is that of those companies that commercialize fresh or peeled and cut fruit that is packaged to be dispensed in the machines. But it must be taken into account that issues such as the expiration of the product, the delicacy it requires when it comes to being manipulated and other logistics that make its cost (much higher) end up affecting the consumer. At present, for example, we find important torts compared to the price of a chocolate palm (about €0.60) and a exigua ration of watermelon (to €1.95, about €20 a kilo of watermelon).

Thus, we witness an undeniable reality that has three readings. The first: that something is labeled as "healthy" does not make it, per se, in healthy. The second: The chances of finding a truly healthy ' vending ' are even today very limited or at least especially minority. The third: This situation is particularly delicate when the machine is located in a health centre or educational center (something quite common). And the fourth: When a truly healthy option is found, its price is usually exorbitant relative to the price of that same product in another distribution channel.

As long as things do not change relative to the quality of the present supply of vending — as well as their price —, "vending saludable" could be, along with "Ardent Ice", "Second Eternal" and "thundering Silence," an explanation of the rhetorical figure of Oxymoron.