Rising food prices creating more food inequity in Aotearoa

by | Jan 27, 2022 | News

The highest grocery price rises in a decade reinforces a new report’s call for increased household revenue through government intervention to allow all families fair access to healthy food.

The How healthy are Aotearoa New Zealand’s food environments 2018-2021 report revealed the troubling state of New Zealand’s food environment due to inaction from successive Governments and calls for this to change.

“Of the 47 indicators that measure the implementation of healthier food policies only one saw any improvement over the past three years which was implementing healthy school lunches,” Health Coalition Aotearoa’s food expert group co-chair Dr Sally Mackay said.

“Over the last nine years most measures have not improved at all and it is worrying that each government, left or right, is doing so little about obesity and healthy eating.”

The increasing price of food, as identified by Statistics New Zealand, is likely to create further food inequity.

“More than 50 countries have introduced a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, and it is so common and backed by solid evidence, that it is hard to imagine why New Zealand would not do the same,” Mackay said.

“In addition, we need to reduce the taxation on healthy foods, such as removing GST on fruits and vegetables as other countries have done.”

The New Zealand Health Survey also released data showing child obesity has risen sharply in the last year with a 3.2 percentage-point increase from 9.5 to 12.7 per cent of the population.

For Māori children, the rate increased by 4.5 percentage-points up to 17.8 per cent and for Pacific children the rate increased 28.8 per cent to 35.3 per cent.

“This big upswing in just one year is very concerning and the problem of obesity and its flow-on health effects just cannot be ignored any longer,” Mackay said.

“We’re doing so little about it and it is going to get worse and worse. Access to healthy food does so much for improving children’s physical health and mental health”.

“Our current food system is not only driving up food insecurity, obesity, and diabetes, it is also unfair because it creates huge health inequities in New Zealand. Healthy food needs to be readily accessible for all families, not just those with higher incomes.

The report also calls for regulation to replace industry-led measures to protect children from junk food advertising. Last week, an analysis of the University of Otago Kid’s Cam study revealed the extent of the commercialisation of children with 10 and 11 year-olds being exposed to a brand a minute. Many of those brands are from harmful products such as unhealthy food, alcohol, and gambling.

Mackay says the voluntary, Child and Young People’s Advertising Code has been clearly been shown to be ineffective at protecting young people from junk food advertising.

“These codes are lip service and do little to restrict industry marketing tactics,” she said.

“For example, the code states that advertising of unhealthy foods is permissible on television if children make up less than 25 per cent of the broadcast audience. However, the Nielson data used in the report, show that this 25 per cent threshold is never exceeded so the criterion is totally meaningless.

“There are many areas the government needs to intervene to ensure that healthy food is available to all and we would like to see at least some of these measures taken before this issue worsens further.”

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