Economic gloom to create “health crunch”?

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 11th March 2009

The strides made forward in attempts to combat obesity may be undermined by the recession, according to the findings of a survey by the leading UK consumer group.

The survey found 24% of Brits are making healthier eating less of a priority in the wake of the financial crisis as over half (56%) report price has become a more important factor when choosing food since the crisis began.

The survey by ‘Which?’ coincides with their publication of Hungry for Change?, a report by the consumer watchdog examining progress on promoting healthier eating in the last five years.

The report said it welcomed positive initiatives including salt reductions and improvements in the quality of school meals. But it said “significant problems” remained, with many consumers indicating they would like the government and the food idnsutry to do more to boost the number of healthy choices.

“People want to make healthier choices, but it’s not easy. As the credit crunch bites it’s important that Government and industry aren’t distracted. They can’t be allowed to put the fight against obesity on hold,” Sue Davies, Chief Policy Advisor at Which?, said.

The food industry has said they will continue to enhance the number of healthy options available in spite of the economic climate. “UK food and drink manufacturers have made a massive contribution to improving the health of the nation and are widely acknowledged to be leading the world in terms of our response to many of the key debates that have been raging since 2004,” Julian Hunt, Director of Communications at the Food and Drink Federation – which represents food and beverage manufacturers, said.

“Our members are helping consumers make healthier choices through a combination of recipe changes, the development of ‘better for you’ options and improved nutrition information on packs.”

“The recession is clearly making life difficult for our sector, but we see no evidence to suggest this is causing a ‘health crunch’. Our members will not be distracted from their groundbreaking work in this area, nor will they slow their efforts to keep providing consumers with what they want – nutritious, tasty food at affordable prices,” Mr Hunt suggested.