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Content Analysis of Online Grocery Retail Policies and Practices Affecting Healthy Food Access

Published:December 15, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2021.09.006

      Abstract

      Objective

      To describe policies and practices of online grocery retailers that may affect healthy food access, including retailers participating in the US Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Online Purchasing Pilot.

      Design

      Cross-sectional, quantitative content analysis of 21 online grocery retail websites from November 2019 to January 2020.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Data collected using a coding instrument capturing the presence of policies and practices related to (1) online purchasing and delivery access; (2) availability of features that allow price comparisons and provide nutrition information; and (3) data privacy.

      Analysis

      Descriptive statistics for features, practices, and policies across online grocery retail websites.

      Results

      Most retailers (95%) added fees to online orders. Among pilot retailers, 38% added ≥ 3 fees, and 50% required a minimum order > $15. Few retailers (29%) displayed Nutrition Facts Labels on all products, including 50% of pilot retailers. All retailers collected personal information from shoppers and automatically shared data with affiliated companies.

      Conclusions and Implications

      High fees, limited access to nutrition information on retailer sites, and lack of data privacy are prevalent in online grocery retail settings, including among Online Purchasing Pilot retailers. Online retail practices may perpetuate disparities in healthy food access by discouraging use through fees and making nutritious food choices difficult.

      Key Words

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