The researchers entered the interior of the subway stations considered the busiest in São Paulo and managed exclusively by the state government. By a system of check list, kiosks, snack bars, stores and vending machines to quantify, identify and characterize the available foods, according to their attributes, such as degree of processing, price, variety (brand, type of package, volume, weight), location, among other metrics.
Thus, it was possible to describe the food environment of the stations. It is worth noting that the collection was carried out in 2017, when the Lilac line was still strictly public administration.
The data showed a scenario with a high supply of unhealthy foods compared to healthy ones. Soft drinks, for example, were found in all seasons, with an average of eight types per establishment – reaching up to 24 varieties of the product in a single store. The only healthy drink option was mineral water, present at all stations studied, except at Tucuruvi, and natural fruit juice, which was found only at the Brás station. Apart from beverages, in most observations, water was the only healthy product available for purchase.
Packed snacks or unstuffed salty biscuits, candy and chocolate bars and soda were available in more than half of the commercial outlets (51.5%, 53.0% and 60.6%, respectively), according to the study. They are actually mixtures of industrial products and have little or no food; are classified as ultra-processed, according to the food classification called NOVA, which describes foods by degree of industrial processing.
Meanwhile, fruits, which are food in nature (with high nutritional value), were only seen at the Brás and Tatuapé stations and in only 10.0% of the snack bars and 4.8% of the vending machines in these seasons.
Vegetables, which are also part of this group, were only available as part of sandwich preparations, which were considered unhealthy foods, present in 70.0% of snack bars, 66.7% of cafeterias and 9.5% of vending machines from the Sé, Luz, Tatuapé, Brás and República stations. The article informs that nutritional information was not found in any of the 66 commercial points.
In addition to the high offer, foods with a higher degree of processing were also more accessible due to low prices, such as candies sold for R$ 0.10; sweet stuffed cookies for R$0.75 and soft drinks for R$2.00. With R$5.00, a hungry passenger on the way home can choose from a wide range of unhealthy foods and, perhaps with luck, may have the option of consuming a bottle of water and an apple – for example.
“The high exposure of ultra-processed products at the Metro stations does not allow daily users of this transport to have the guarantee of the human right to adequate and healthy food, and the high amount of advertising in relation to these foods also compromises the autonomy of choice”, he says the author of the research.
The study used the São Paulo Social Vulnerability Index to characterize the geographic areas of the locations of each station and relate them to aspects of social vulnerability. However, there was no difference between healthy and unhealthy food markers by territory.
The highlight was only the group of stations with very low vulnerability (Ana Rosa, Barra Funda, Consolação, Paraíso, Vila Madalena, Adolfo Pinheiro and Santo Amaro) which presented only one type of healthy food: mineral water.
According to the researcher, there is no control over what will be sold at each of the commercial points; food issues are not taken into account in the concession criteria, and it is up to the merchant to decide the products offered. Due to their low prices, less perishability and popularity among the public, ultra-processed foods are chosen to be part of the showcases.
::Understand why ultra-processed foods should not be on your menu::
“With these data, it is interesting that the government thinks about formulations of interventions, to change this scenario through public policies, seeing public health also in the context of public transport”, he completes.
Currently, in her doctoral research, Jessica continues the research and seeks to identify and analyze ideas about possible regulatory interventions aimed at the food environment of Metro stations in the city of São Paulo. This is done through users, representatives of civil society organizations and representatives of the state government of São Paulo.
right and access
“The offer of food in the Metrô is a secondary service, where the primary one is transport. But once there is this food proposal, it should be in a safe way and that also guarantees the rights and respects the autonomy of the users. It is a public space, administered by the government of the State of São Paulo, which increases the importance of the study.”
Constitutional Amendment No. 64 includes food as a social right, contained in article 6 of the Federal Constitution of 1988; this right is guaranteed by Food and Nutritional Security (SAN), in accordance with Law No. 11.346, of September 15, 2006. In practice, the researcher explains that the State is not only responsible for promoting access to food, but access quality food for the population. When one thinks about promoting public health, there are the impacts of food environments on food, while food consumption also takes place outside the home: in other spaces of daily life – including on the way to these destinations.
“The offer of food in the Metrô is a secondary service, where the primary one is transport. But once there is this food proposal, it should be in a safe way and that also guarantees the rights and respects the users’ autonomy”, says Jessica. She emphasizes that this is a public space, administered by the government of the State of São Paulo, which increases the importance of the study.
The article was published in Revista Ciência & Saúde Coletiva and is available on the SciELO platform. The article is also authored by researchers Mariana Tarricone Garcia, Daniela Silva Canella, Iara da Rocha Louzada and Cláudia Maria Bógus, from the Research Group on Health Promotion and Food and Nutritional Security, at the Faculty of Public Health (FSP) at USP .
*Guilherme Gama is a reporter for Jornal da USP