Healthier foods and beverages have been consistently more expensive than unhealthier ones from 2002-2012, with a gap that's growing, according to a study published October 8, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Nicholas Jones from University of Cambridge, UK, and colleagues.
Governments have identified access to affordable healthy diets as a key factor in improving public health, yet methods for tracking prices of more and less healthy foods over time have not been established. The authors of this study analyzed existing government data on national food prices and nutrition content of over 90 foods and beverages from 2002-2012. Each item was assigned to a food group and categorized as either "more healthy" or "less healthy" using a nutrient profiling model developed by the UK Food Standards Agency.
The results showed that the 2012 price per 1000 kcal was £2.50 (~$4 USD) for less healthy items and £7.49 (~$12.20 USD) for more healthy items. The price rose for most food items over the study period, but more healthy items rose faster than less healthy ones. This trend could make healthier diets less affordable over time, which the authors suggest may have implications for individual food security and public health, and that may exacerbate social inequalities in health. "Food poverty and the rise of food banks have recently been an issue of public concern in the UK, but as well as making sure people don't go hungry it is vital that that a healthy diet is affordable," said lead author Nicholas Jones. The authors also hope that these findings may help inform future policies and monitoring efforts.
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