Australians Eating Less Fruit and Vegetables, But More Chicken Nuggets

Chocolate consumption has also risen in the past five years.
Australians Eating Less Fruit and Vegetables, But More Chicken Nuggets
People shop for fruit and vegetables at a market in Melbourne, Australia, on June 11, 2021. (William West/AFP via Getty Images)
Monica O’Shea

Fruit and vegetable consumption in Australia has dropped, according to the latest findings from the national statistical agency. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveals a reduction across all major food groups, with vegetables recording the largest drop.

This news coincides with Australians grappling with higher inflation, with CPI rising to 6 percent in the 12 months leading up to June 2023.

Vegetable consumption fell by 14 grams per person in the 2023 financial year, while fruit fell by 12 grams, milk products dropped by 11 grams, and non-alcoholic beverages slipped by 9 grams.

Overall, Australians bought 3.9 percent less food in 2022-2023 than the previous year, or a reduction of 63 grams per day.

Bottled drinking water, however, increased by 1.6 percent on the previous year, while energy and sports drinks rose 3.3 percent, and chicken dishes like nuggets jumped 2.6 percent.

ABS health statistics spokesperson Paul Atyeo said each person had 186 grams of vegetables per day in the 2022-2023 period, down from 200 grams between 2021-2022.

“We also went from eating 150 grams of fruit to 138 grams a day during 2022-23, while milk products fell from 278 to 267 grams,” Mr. Atyeo said.

“Many of the foods that dropped during 2022-23 are part of longer-term trends. We’re consuming between 5 and 8 percent less cow’s milk, bread, and fruit juice per person compared to 2018-19.”

Looking at the last five years, chocolate consumption has gone up 10 percent, potato chips have increased by 16 percent, and cereals, and convenience meal consumption has risen 9 percent.

However, sugar-sweetened beverage drinking has dropped from a peak of 145 millilitres (mL) in 2020-2021 to 134 mL per person a day in 2022-2023.

In total, 14.8 million tonnes of food and non-alcoholic beverages were sold in 2022-2023, 1.9 percent less than in 2021-2022.

“Overall lower estimates of consumption in 2022-23 compared with previous years may be associated with recent food price inflation,” the ABS noted.
“In the two years to June 2023, the cumulative Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase for food and non-alcoholic beverages totalled 13.9 percent compared with a 4.9 percent cumulative increase over the three years prior (2018-19 to 2020-21).”

‘Obesity Crisis’ Concern

Meanwhile, the Food for Health Alliance has recently raised concerns about the “growing obesity crisis” in Australia.

The alliance said unhealthy drinks account for one-third of Australian daily energy intake and more than 90 percent of people do not consume enough vegetables and fruit.

Executive General Manager Jane Martin stated that Australia is behind the rest of the world in improving diets and preventing obesity. 
“All Australians want to enjoy good health, but the food environment that we live in surrounds us with heavily promoted, easily accessible, cheap ultra-processed food,” Ms. Martin said
She further noted that two-thirds of adults and more than one-quarter of children are above a healthy weight.

Food Prices Rising

Inflation in Australia rose 3.4 percent in the 12 months leading up to February 2024, according to an ABS release on March 27.

Food and non-alcoholic beverages prices rose by 3.6 percent, while alcohol and tobacco costs rose by 6.1 percent.

However, prices dropped for meat and seafood by 2 percent, while fruit and vegetable costs lowered by 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the cost of a meal out and takeaway foods rose by 5.4 percent, while bread and cereal products lifted by 7 percent.

Monica O’Shea is a reporter based in Australia. She previously worked as a reporter for Motley Fool Australia, Daily Mail Australia, and Fairfax Regional Media.
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