Supermarkets get thumbs down on health

21st June 2021 | Eativity editors

Australian supermarkets have been “red-flagged” for unhealthy food promotion in a new national food dashboard designed to track the key drivers of high obesity rates in Australia.

All major supermarkets were given a red flag in the Food Environment Dashboard for the way they over-promote, discount and display foods like lollies, chips and soft drinks.

Associate Professor Gary Sacks from the Global Obesity Centre, a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention in Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation, says that the places we buy our food heavily influence what we eat.

“Unhealthy diets are leading contributors to poor health in Australia,” he says. “Our diets are so bad because wherever we go, unhealthy food is pushed at us.

“At Australian supermarkets, it is almost impossible to pay for groceries without being exposed to unhealthy food. Unhealthy products are ‘on special’ almost twice as often as healthy foods, and the discounts on unhealthy foods are much larger.”

Junk food at supermarkets is cheap as chips… literally.

Time for action

The Food Environment Dashboard brings together the most up-to-date data from research institutions and government departments to describe the healthiness of Australia’s food environments. The dashboard covers the healthiness of the foods available for sale, the way foods are marketed and the price and affordability of different diets. It provides a summary of key indicators of the healthiness of food environments with traffic light scores to show those that promote health (green), need improvement (amber) or are unhealthy (red).

“For the first time, we have a really clear picture of all the ways our environment drives us to consume too much of the wrong types of foods,” Sacks says. “It shows the need for much stronger action from all levels of government to create healthier food environments.”

Supermarkets in more disadvantaged areas have more shelf space allocated to unhealthy food and drinks.

Other important findings from the dashboard

1. Children see an average of 10 ads for unhealthy food each hour that they’re online. On TV, kids are exposed to unhealthy food ads more than twice as often as healthy foods ads.

2. Almost two thirds of outdoor food ads promote unhealthy foods, and unhealthy food ads are more common in the most-disadvantaged communities compared with least-disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

3. A healthy diet is simply unaffordable for people on low incomes living in rural or remote areas. In these regions, healthy diets cost more than 30 percent of household income.

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