Health promotion foundation VicHealth has welcomed new Deakin University research into supermarket discounts on unhealthy food and is urging retailers to lift their game and make healthy food cheaper.
The study revealed unhealthy foods, such as chips and chocolate bars were discounted twice as often as healthy foods, like fruit and vegetables. The research also found, on average, unhealthy products received larger discounts (26 per cent off) than healthy food (15 per cent off).
In response, VicHealth has urged the nation’s supermarkets to put the health of the community ahead of profits and prioritise the promotion of healthy products.
VicHealth Executive Manager of Programs Kirstan Corben said supermarkets’ current business model of making unhealthy food cheap, accessible and highly visible comes at a huge cost to our health.
“Australians are eating and drinking ourselves sick. Two thirds of us are overweight or obese and at greater risk of a range of chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer and diabetes,” Ms Corben said.
“We know that the majority of household groceries are purchased in Australian supermarkets. Supermarkets have an enormous reach and an enormous opportunity to help us promote good health.
“However, Deakin’s report clearly shows supermarkets push us towards buying unhealthy foods by making them the cheapest option.
“There’s something seriously wrong with the system if cash-strapped parents are being encouraged to buy sugary cereals for their kids over wholegrain cereals because they’re on special for half the price of the healthy option.
“Being able to feed your family healthy food shouldn’t be a privilege of wealth.”
Ms Corben said there were simple things supermarkets can do to promote healthier food and drinks to Aussie shoppers.
“Supermarkets have an enormous opportunity to create change. Small steps, like including more healthy food in their catalogues, levelling the playing field by offering equivalent discounts on healthy products and putting healthy foods at checkouts and at the end of aisles, would make a big difference.
“While some supermarkets have introduced healthy policies, like free fruit for kids and reformulating certain products to make them healthier, much more work needs to be done across the board.
“We’re in the middle of an obesity crisis and poor diets are driving poor health – we’d like to see supermarkets step up the plate and help us to create positive change.”
Rachel Murphy, VicHealth Senior Media Advisor on 03 9667 1319, 0435 761 732 or firstname.lastname@example.org