27 Aug 2008

Food price rises hurting health choices - nutritionists

2:00 pm on 27 August 2008

Higher food prices are forcing people to make less healthy choices, warn nutritionists.

The Department of Statistics' food price index for July shows food prices have risen 7.6% in the past year.

The price of meat, poultry and fish dropped 1% in July, but fruit and vegetables rose 3.6%.

John Birkbeck, professor of human nutrition at Massey University, says the increasing costs are forcing people to choice between good food and other basics such as fuel and rent.

Professor Jim Mann of Otago University says the figures show it is time the Government looked seriously at removing the GST on food to make healthy choices more affordable.

Professor Mann says removing GST on food has been done in other countries such as Australia.

Statistics New Zealand says it has added seven new items to the Food Price Index basket, which already contains 154 food items. The additional items are: fresh pineapple, cooked chicken, soy milk, free-range eggs, hummus dip, frozen desserts and chilled fruit juice.

But it has removed fresh peaches, saveloys and condensed milk from the basket, saying they are no longer common items.

The department says the latest survey also shows consumers are buying more house brands and fewer branded products. With the price of butter increasing, more people are switching to margarine.