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Fruit and veg costing families a packet

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Fruit and veg costing families a packet

Where and when you shop has a huge impact on the price you pay for fruit and vegetables, a University researcher has found, with produce at the most expensive stores costing up to 50 per cent more.

Dr Emma Dresler-Hawke researched the cost of meeting the recommendation to eat 5+ servings of fruit and vegetables each day, with the results being presented at Australian and New Zealand Marketing Academy conference in Dunedin tomorrow (Monday). She surveyed at five supermarkets – New World, Pak’N’Save, 4 Square, Countdown and Woolworths, at four points through a year, once in each of the four seasons. She found that the cheapest time to buy was summer, with costs varying from $1.13 to $1.98 per person, while winter was most expensive at $1.64 to $2.12 per person. Spring prices ranged from $1.40 to $1.97, and autumn from $1.37 to $2.

Dr Dresler-Hawke says that while the pricing appears relatively cheap, a family of two adults and two children could be spending $59.36 on fruit and vegetables during winter.

Debate around the cost of a healthy diet has been controversial, she says, especially issues relating to the socio-economic groups intake of fruit and vegetables. Less wealthy people have tended to consume less fruit and vegetables.

“Some studies have found that higher fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with higher diet costs,” she says. “Low income groups generally have a more restricted food budget so fruit and vegetables may be overlooked in favour of more energy-dense foods.”

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A key recommendation from Dr Dresler-Hawke is that GST should not be charged on fruit and vegetables. She also believes that investment in providing free fruit to all schoolchildren would pay off.

“There is also considerable public support for both these measures,” she says. “The International Social Survey Programme role of Government survey in 2006 found that 87.5 per cent supported removal of GST on fruit and vegetables, and 82 per cent supported providing fruit to schoolchildren.”

The costings were based on excluding exotic items including bok choy, guavas and lychees for example, and buying the most common fresh fruit and vegetables. She also excluded potatoes and other root vegetables, because most countries do not include these as servings of vegetables.

In summer, fresh fruit and vegetables were often cheaper than frozen, while in winter, canned tomatoes and beans, and frozen corns and spinach were found to be cheaper.

In summer, fruit prices ranged from 10c per serving for bananas to $1.20 per serving of strawberries. Vegetables ranged from 4c per serving of cabbage to $1.77 per serving of asparagus. In winter, fresh fruit prices ranged from 7c per serving of kiwifruit to $1.33 for strawberries, and vegetables ranged from seven cents per serving of pumpkin to 95c per serving of beans. Only four fruits (plums, strawberries, nectarines and apricots) and four vegetables (asparagus, beans, brussel sprouts and green peppers) cost more than the weighted-average price.

The prices for the 10 different types of canned vegetables ranged from 20c per serving of beetroot to $1.06 per serving for peppers. Frozen vegetable prices ranged from 22c for peas to 93c for spinach. Prices for canned fruits ranged from 19c per serving for pineapple to 77c per serving for blueberries. Three types of frozen fruits ranged from 69c per serving for raspberries to $1.08 for blueberries.

The 5+ a-day campaign has been run since 1994 in New Zealand. It recommends a minimum of two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables, but does not promote including processed – for example tinned or frozen – fruit and vegetables.

“The consumer can meet the 5+ requirement for less if they include selected items of processed food because they are cheaper,” Dr Dresler-Hawke says. “In fact, research has indicated that fresh, frozen and canned [fruit and vegetables] are nutritionally comparable.”


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