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Pay more, waste less: Scottish food study

By Louis Gore-Langton , 03-Jan-2017
Last updated on 03-Jan-2017 at 16:10 GMT2017-01-03T16:10:10Z

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Research by the University of Aberdeen in Scotland suggests that while food price hikes have reduced the amount bought by the public, an equal reduction in food waste has kept overall food intake constant.

Previous studies have implied the opposite – higher prices mean less food purchased per adult and as a result a net decrease in their average energy intake.

This study, published in Public Health Nutrition journal last month, examined the buying, consumption and wastage habits of adults in Scotland over a five year period.

Boom & bust

The assumption that fluctuation in price causes parallel changes in consumption is not always correct.

The economic downturn in 2008 increased the price of food by around 8% by the following year. The effects of this are generally thought to have directly altered the level of public consumption.

This study of Scottish adults, which accounted for levels of food waste, showed that an increase in food savings countered the reduction in food purchases – thus having no significant impact on the net level of energy intake.

Taking statistics from KantarWorldPanel (KWP) on food and drink purchases between 2007 and 2009, covering the time most altered by the downturn.

The estimated energy intake per person can be calculated from energy purchases.

However, using waste data specific to this time period and scaled per household, there was almost zero difference in estimated energy intake per person.

Same energy, different diet

Whilst the use of food waste statistics shows nearly no change in overall energy consumption per person as prices rise, a difference in dietary quality was recorded in a separate study.

A significant decrease in nutritional value to public diets was shown to have occurred over the course of the recession.  

The density of energy in food products remains, in Scotland, around four times higher than the national target (Scottish Dietary Goal) of 125kj energy per 100g food. 

Source: Public Health and Nutrition

Published online: 19 December (doi:10.1017/S1368980016003256

"Buying less and wasting less food. Changes in household food energy purchases, energy intakes and energy density between 2007 and 2012 with and without adjustment for food waste "

Authors: Stephen Whybrow, Graham W Horgan, Jennie Macdiarmid

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