Vulnerable Groups at Risk if a GST on Fresh Food Goes Ahead say Dietitians

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 15th June 2015
Fresh fruit and vegetables are currently exempt from the GST, and nutrition experts want it to stay that way.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are currently exempt from the GST, and nutrition experts want it to stay that way.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are currently exempt from the GST, and nutrition experts want it to stay that way.

According to the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), adding the GST to fresh foods, like fruit and vegetables, would impact on the health of many Australians and blow future health care budgets.

The warning, from the nation’s peak nutrition body, comes as the Federal Government considers submissions to its ‘Re:think. Better tax, better Australia’ consultation.

DAA Spokesperson Julie Gilbert said a GST on fresh food would be ‘short-sighted’ and would make it harder for all Australians, but especially vulnerable groups, to access healthy food.

She added that any extra revenue from a widened GST on fresh food would likely be eaten up by extra health care costs needed to manage chronic disease down the track.

‘We need to be making it easier for Australians to eat the kinds of foods that protect against cancer, heart disease and mental illness.’

‘The Federal Government must consider the potential effect on the nation’s health before making changes to Australia’s tax system,’ said Ms Gilbert, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

According to our last National Nutrition Survey, only around one in ten Australians (6.8%) aged two years and over eat enough vegetables, and just over half (54%) eat enough fruit[i].

Ms Gilbert said price hikes on fresh foods would likely be more of a barrier to good health among people of low socioeconomic status and other vulnerable groups, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

‘The Australians who can least afford any increased costs to fresh foods stand to lose the most. These are the groups most affected by nutrition-related diseases,’ said Ms Gilbert.

An Australian Bureau of Statistics survey shows that low income earners spend five times as much of their income on food as people in the highest income quintile[ii].

According to the survey, the typical family of two adults and two children, relying entirely on welfare support, needs to spend around a third of their household income to buy an adequate healthy food basket, compared with only nine per cent in families with the highest average disposable income.

‘Access to adequate nutritious food is a basic human right and adding the GST to fresh, healthy food puts this right at risk for many Australians,’ said Ms Gilbert.

Article attributed to the Dietitians Association of Australia