July 18, 2024

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Healthy foods are often more expensive. Here’s why

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Maria Korneeva | Moment | Getty Images

Eating a healthier — or at least a more balanced diet — is not always as easy as it sounds, with food prices leading to large disparities between rich and poor communities in many countries.

One piece of British research in 2023, the Broken Plate report by The Food Foundation released in June, found that healthy food is usually twice as expensive as less healthy food, on a per calorie basis.

Campaigners say high prices have reduced many households’ ability to buy healthy or healthier food, pushing consumers toward less healthy, ultra-processed options.

With this cost divide, it’s worth focusing on nutrient-rich fresh fruit and vegetables, in particular — which are key to any balanced diet.

Fruit and vegetables

Countries in the developed world are increasingly dependent on international imports as more consumers demand year-round access to tropical or out of season fruit and vegetables. This has led to a longer and more complicated global supply chain.

The U.S. is one of the biggest importers of fresh fruit and vegetables in the world, and it’s a big exporter too. But while U.S. production by volume has remained stable over the years, its imports have increased by 129% for fruit, and by 155% for vegetables, in the last 20 years.

According to a recent study by the U.K.’s University of Warwick, fixed costs in the supply chain alone have led to American consumers paying 40% more for fruit and vegetables over a 10-year period.

“The data very clearly says, there is this fixed high cost for fresh fruit and vegetable, which is not there for other products,” Thijs Van Rens, one of the authors of the Warwick study told CNBC. “This market is inefficient in setting the right prices.”

In contrast, Van Rens argued, ultra-processed food items — which aren’t perishable like fresh produce — are becoming cheaper. “Junk food is cheap because you can keep it forever. You can buy it in bulk, you can produce it in bulk, you can deliver it…

2023-12-27 01:14:00

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