Healthy eating message “doomed” by Coles, Woolies: AUS
Efforts to get Australians to eat healthier may be “doomed from the start” by the dominance of the major retailers Coles and Woolworths, a researcher says.
John Wardle, from the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland, says the major grocers now enjoy a duopoly within the Australian market that is unrivalled in the world.
More competition is needed, he says, to ensure the public had broader access to fresher and more nutritious fruit and vegetables outside of the major supermarkets chains.
“Retailers have a gatekeeper role in the provision of nutrition to the public through their ability to control access to supermarket shelves,” Mr Wardle said.
“Unless competition is improved, the numerous public health programs aimed at increasing consumption of nutritious foods are doomed from the start.”
Mr Wardle says the 80 per cent control of the Australian grocery market by Coles and Woolworths, which is without precedent globally, ensures they are able to drive down supplier prices.
Their nationwide distribution networks for fruit and vegetables also have the effect of locking out, by undercutting, local farmers from supplying produce to their own communities.
This ensures fruit and vegetables “travelling thousands of miles and for days” before they are sold in supermarkets and Mr Wardle says this reduces their nutritional value.
The roll-out of new supermarkets, often in suburban areas, has also prompted the “death of the high street” in cities and towns, he says.
“This has meant the death of the independent butcher and the independent green grocer who were known to provide fresher, more nutritious and often cheaper food to the public,” Mr Wardle said.
“The government is trying to encourage more fruit and vegetable consumption and you have a situation that actually makes it hard for the public to access those fruit and vegetables.”
Mr Wardle and fellow researcher Michael Baranovic raise the issue in a paper published in the latest edition of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
Mr Wardle also says the problem is not the major supermarkets’ fault as they are in full compliance with Australian law.
“Coles and Woolworths are just being good companies and looking after their shareholders,” he said.
“It’s the fact that competition policy, planning policy seems weighted towards those mega-ventures in the supply of groceries.”
By FoodWeek Online
By Danny Rose of AAP