Cheaper to eat junk food
October 08, 2008 12:00am
HEALTHY essential foods are rising in price much more quickly than soft drinks and sugary snacks, a study has found.
Prices of bread, milk, cereal and eggs have gone up by about 25 per cent more than average food prices over the past decade. But those of some calorie-laden junk foods have increased by 50 per cent less than the average, Victorian research shows.
This is a disincentive to people to eat well, an article in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
VicHealth research fellow Cate Burns and Deakin University researchers Lisa Gold and Gary Sacks found all food had increased in price between 1989 and 2007.
But soft drinks prices had gone up by a third less than average, salt-rich and sugary condiment prices by half as much as the average, and cake and biscuit prices by a tenth less than the average.
"We now have a situation where generic cola is just 99c for a 1.25 litre bottle but generic milk is $1.59," Dr Burns said yesterday.
"And generic bread is about $2 a loaf but generic cream biscuits less than $1 at some stores.
"For low-income families, what they buy is largely driven by cost, and that means they might not buy as much of the healthy basics children need.
"For instance, we know 6-, 10- and 15-year-old girls are drinking only half as much milk as they need, but some are drinking soft drink in large amounts," Dr Burns said.
Dr Burns's data is reflected in a comparison of the latest ABS price figures.
For instance, between September 2004 and une this year, the price of chocolate rose by only 7 per cent but milk went up by 25 per cent.
Price rises have meant an increase in demand for savings and budget advice, Berry Street CEO Sandie de Wolf said.
"Most families are doing it tough at the moment, particularly those on low incomes. As a result, more and more families are turning to financial counselling services," she said.
Berry Street's Saver Plus program, created by ANZ and the Brotherhood of St Laurence, is designed to help families save.
Participants set a savings target to be spent on education expenses for their own or their child's education. After reaching the target, ANZ matches the savings up to $1000.