Splitting up grocery players important for kids’ health

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Health policy experts and nutritionists are disappointed this morning by the rollback of expected recommendations from Commerce Commissions report on the grocery market to split up the two big industry players. 

“What many people don’t realise is, structural market measures are also desperately needed health interventions,” said Leanne Young, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Researcher. 

“You can’t replace nutrients lost in the developing years, when health and eating habits are being set up for life. The right to healthy food is too important to be left to an effective duopoly. While many of the other recommendations like increasing access to wholesale supply and a mandatory code of conduct will help, it doesn’t go nearly far enough.”

Dr Lisa Te Morenga, HCA Food Policy Expert Panel Co-Chair agrees, and says the lack of action disproportionately affects Māori and Pasifka whānau.

“Our poorest children are most vulnerable to the uncompetitive practices of our grocery players,” she said.

“Many Māori and Pasifika kids live in suburbs who don’t have access to big supermarkets. Poorer families are often dependent on small corner stores in walking distance. The food in small corner stores is overpriced, in part because large grocery chains control food wholesalers in a way that’s not healthy for our communities.

“All children have the right to affordable healthy food that sets them up for the rest of their lives. This is just not happening for our poorest kids, many of whom are tamariki Māori and Pasifika, and these recommendations aren’t enough for them.”

Dr Young says high grocery prices affect a significant percentage of New Zealand families, and this collectively undermines our health.

“Almost one in five children live in a household with severe to moderate food insecurity[i]. If their families can’t afford enough fruit and veg, they will be missing out on valuable amounts of Vitamin C which affects their oral health, bones, skin, and puts their whole immune system at risk of infection. This is just one example of the potential harm of high grocery prices.

“When healthy food is too expensive, families are pushed towards cheaper but nutritionally empty, highly processed junk that stunts health and development. While companies profit from high grocery prices as we have seen in this report, the health costs are paid by our whole society.

“There’s no magic bullet to fixing unhealthy food environments but splitting up the grocery market is a major piece of the puzzle. Other important nutrition policies will form layers of protection for children’s health, for example healthy food in schools and protecting kids from junk food marketing.”

“The changes to grocery markets simply have to be big to change the drivers of health.”









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