A global study showed that household income inequality could be a contributing factor for obesity rates among young people, although some food companies in New Zealand have made progress on addressing the problem such as placing informative packaging labels on consumer products.
The study based its findings from more than 200,000 children in 36 countries. Researchers from the University of Auckland, University of Otago, and the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand conducted the research.
Wealthier countries are found to have a higher rate of obese adolescent girls, while lower-income countries have more underweight children. In New Zealand, many people have unhealthy body mass index numbers that manifest through a sedentary lifestyle.
For instance, increasing sales of television, video games, and other entertainment equipment contributes to an inactive daily life. This, in turn, encourages more people to consume more food than necessary, while higher income rates in the country further support this lifestyle. Based on Statistics New Zealand data, the annual household income in the 10 years to June 2017 rose 50% on average to more than $104,000.
Food Industry Efforts
Despite the growing problem of obesity in New Zealand, a separate study from the University of Auckland showed that food and beverage manufacturers have made changes to their product offerings to lower the rate of obesity.
Nestlé ranked ahead of the 25 companies in the study with a score of 75 out of 100. The company’s efforts to offer healthier options include less sugar and salt in Cheerios and a wholegrain variant for MAGGI 2 Minute noodles. Other top companies included Fonterra, Coca-Cola, Mars, and Unilever.
Income disparity may be a major factor for obesity, but food and drink manufacturers also have a responsibility to improve their products and be more transparent on labelling consumer goods.