Good news for tech start-ups, bad news for our health?

This morning’s news announced that tech start-up Just Eat achieved 58% rise in revenues in the last 6 months. Just Eat is an online takeaway site that links hungry users with now a total of 40,800 restaurants. 4,400 restaurants were added to its list to boost the traffic and achieve this rise in profits. Just Eat is one of the latest high profile tech listings at London Stock Exchange so its success is great news locally. From an absence management perspective, however, the news reminds us of the worries about our diet and health. Of course, the rise in online takeaway orders does not mean that the number of takeaways itself has risen. It could just be that more diners are opting to place their order online instead of over the phone.

The more exposed to takeaway food, the more likely to be obese

Earlier this year, researches in the UK warned that exposure to too many pizza and fried-food outlets can nearly double your chances of obesity, as reported by BBC news. There were two main suggestions to combat this worrying trend:

  1. Restrict number of takeaway restaurants near schools
  2. Make healthier options obligatory

Dr Thomas Burgoine, who led the study, told BBC News: “Those most exposed to takeaway food outlets overall were nearly twice as likely to be obese, compared to those least exposed.”

Make takeaways healthier, not scarcer

Not all research agrees with these results. Dr Kathryn Neckerman, of Columbia University, New York has found that children surrounded be fast food outlets were actually slimmer and suggests, rather than restricting the number of restaurants, that “healthy takeaway food should not only be available, it should be as visible, tasty, and cheap as unhealthy food.”

More takeaways than ever

In the past decade in the UK, spending on food eaten outside the home has increased by 29%. According to the UK study, the average person encounters 32 takeaway restaurants around their home, workplace and travelling between the two.

Tracy Parker, heart health dietician at the British Heart Foundation, which helped fund the UK study, said: “We already know that people are spending more than ever on takeaways and food eaten away from home, and that these foods are often less healthy than the meals we make ourselves.”

Just Eat operates in 13 countries, but said the UK still accounted for almost three quarters of its sales. It said the “particularly wet period of winter weather” in the UK in the first two months of the year boosted orders as consumers chose to stay indoors.

Employers can – and should – encourage healthy eating

From an employer’s perspective, healthy eating should definitely be encouraged. Obesity and related health problems are a costly issue, not only for the health service but also for the employer. Offering healthy food in the staff canteen or encouraging staff to opt for healthier snacks should be a no-brainer. However, many employers now reward staff, who work late by allowing takeaways to be ordered on the company account. No doubt great news for Just Eat but not so great for our health!