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New data enough to leave a bad taste in your mouth

A Helen Clark Foundation and Health Coalition Aotearoa analysis of Marketview data, which uses EFTPOS to track spending habits, has found that Auckland fast food and takeaway businesses raked in a staggering $6.718 billion over the last six years.

As a member of the Healthy Auckland Together (HAT) coalition, Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) also belongs to the Protect Kids from Junk Food Marketing Group.

ARPHS’ Clinical Lead for HAT, Dr Michael Hale, says the jaw-dropping figures are an indictment on the food environment in Auckland and the lack of adequate regulation.

"The data confirms what we’ve known for a long time; fast food companies have a vice-like grip on our wallets," Dr Hale says. "And they’ve used worrying strategies to get it."

Michael Hale says that while junk food and its marketing is prevalent across the entire region (children are exposed to a brand nearly every minute, even when at school, with food and drink making up 20.1% of their exposures), it is at saturation point in the high deprivation areas targeted by fast food companies.

"The new data shows just how entrenched it is in communities who are least able to afford it - either economically, socially or in health terms."

Of the top 15 locations for junk food sales, 93 per cent were in areas of high deprivation (index greater than six) and 60 per cent were in areas with the highest levels of deprivation (8 and above).

The data also shows that, measured purely as a single food item, on an annual basis, the order for every adult, child and baby in Auckland would equate to one of the following equivalents on average:

- 143.3 million Big Macs

- 584 million KFC Wicked Wings

- 319.7 million scoops of hot chips

- 112 million pizzas or 896 million slices

And while those sales may be good for business - and offer quick (albeit high sugar, high salt) meal options for cash and time-poor families - they’re simultaneously ensuring that serious health inequities deepen and persist in the places where they’re already significant; a cost that goes beyond money.

Currently communities have no say over which businesses set up in their local area, and even councils have no power to restrict businesses’ access to certain areas. Greater community say over which stores are allowed to set-up locally would make a big difference when it comes to achieving healthier neighbourhoods.

"The choices we make about what to eat are heavily influenced by what’s available, what’s cheap and what’s convenient," Dr Hale says. "So if our local shops are dominated by 24/7 fast food outlets rather than reasonably priced supermarkets, those choices tend to be made for us."

As a member of HAT and the Protect Kids from Junk Food Marketing Group, ARPHS is seeking regulatory change that will protect the most vulnerable in our communities, our children.

"The Marketview data shows exactly why new legislation is needed, and fast," Dr Hale says. "Forty per cent of our tamariki and rangatahi aged 4-19 are already living with overweight or obesity, and fast food businesses aren’t going to voluntarily reduce their profit margins to turn that tide.

"We need regulation that clamps down on the unhealthy food and drink marketing targeted at our children."

For more information about the legislation being sought by Protect Kids from Junk Food, visit their website. Find the fast food data set used for the analysis on the Helen Clark Foundation website.

© Scoop Media

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