Eating well is increasingly become the preserve of the rich, according to a study showing that the price gap between healthy and unhealthy foods is widening.
Products officially designated as healthy by the Government now cost an average of three times more than less healthy alternatives, said the researchers, who tracked the prices of 94 key food and drink items between 2002 and 2012.
Healthier food such as fruit and vegetables was found to be consistently more expensive than those high in fat and sugar, such as frozen pizza. They have also risen more sharply in price over the 10-year period.
In 2002, 1,000kcal of healthy food cost an average of £5.65, while shoppers buying less healthy alternatives could spend just £1.77 to gain the same amount of calories. By 2012 these figures had changed to £7.49 and £2.50 respectively.
Although in percentage terms the less healthy foods still increased significantly in price, in absolute terms the healthier foods rose by £1.84 per 1,000kcal over 10 years compared to just £0.73 for the less healthy items.
“Since 2002, more healthy foods and beverages have been consistently more expensive than less healthy ones, with a growing gap between them,” the researchers wrote. “This trend is likely to make healthier diets less affordable over time, which may have implications for individual food security and population health.”
Pointing out that the cost of diet-related ill health to the NHS is estimated at £5.8bn a year, they added that the Government should consider “routine food price monitoring” so action could be taken if healthy foods became unaffordable for low earners.
The study, published in the journal Plos One, was carried out by the Centre for Diet and Activity Researches at the University of Cambridge.
Food for thought: How much is healthy grub?
2002: £3.02 per 1,000kcal
2002: £2.10 per 1,000kcal