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The impact of Covid-19 restrictions and changes to takeaway regulations in England on consumers’ intake of, and method of accessing out-of-home foods: a longitudinal, mixed-methods study

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Article number3636
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>18/08/2023
Issue number16
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


COVID-19 restrictions significantly impacted the operations of Fast Food and Full Service retail-ers. Full Service retailers were permitted to operate as takeaway outlets without needing to seek formal changes in planning permissions. We conducted a study to determine consumers’ intake of, and mode of accessing foods from Fast Food and Full Service retailers during various Covid-19 restrictions and changes to takeaway/delivery regulations, and their experiences of this. Methods: We conducted a longitudinal, mixed-methods study comprising three surveys examining intake frequency and modes of accessing retailers, and two rounds of qualitative focus groups exploring related experiences. Data were collected from May 2021 – March 2022. Participants were adults living in Northern England (n = 701 at T1); a sub-sample participated in focus groups (n = 22). Intake data were presented descriptively; an ordered logit regression explored factors associated with intake frequency. Focus group data were analysed using Framework Analysis. Results: Mean weekly intake frequency from Fast Food retailers at T1, T2 and T3 was 0.96 (SD 1.05), 1.08 (SD 1.16) and 1.06 times (SD 1.12), respectively. For Full Service retailers, this was 0.36 (SD 0.69), 0.75 (1.06) and 0.71 (SD 0.99) times, respectively. Food access issues (OR (SE): T1 = 1.65 (0.40), T2 = 2.60 (0.66), T = 2.1 (0.62)) and obesity (T1 = 1.61 (0.31), T2 = 2.21 (0.46), T3 = 1.85 (0.42)) were pos-itively associated with intake from Fast Food, but not Full Service retailers. Delivery services were commonly used to access Fast Food (30–34% participants), but not Full Service retailers (6-10% participants). As Covid-19 restrictions eased, participants were eager to socialise on-premises at Full Service retailers. Conclusions: Takeaway/delivery services were seldom used to access Full Service retailers; use of delivery services to access Fast Food was high. Policy-makers must rec-ognise delivery services as a growing part of the food environment, and the challenges they pose to planning policies for obesity prevention.
Keywords: Food delivery services