NZ Food Environment Survey

How healthy are New Zealand food environments? A comprehensive assessment 2014-2017

A major cause of New Zealand’s very high rates of obesity has been mapped in a world-first study from the University of Auckland providing a full picture of the healthiness of New Zealand food environments. The study was funded by the Health Research Council and the Heart Foundation of NZ.

The results are summarised in the Executive Summary  and the Full Report. The report was launched by Professor John Potter, Chief Science Advisor to the Ministry of Health at a seminar on 11th July.  Professor Boyd Swinburn, University of Auckland, presented the results of the study. The seminar recording is available here.

What did we do?

From 2014 to 2017 a comprehensive national food policies and environments study using INFORMAS methodology was conducted using multiple sub-studies.

  • Government implementation of healthy food policies
  • Food company commitments to improving population nutrition
  • Composition and labelling of packaged foods
  • Unhealthy food marketing to children
  • Food provision in schools and hospitals
  • Food retail within communities and inside supermarkets
  • Cost of healthier versus less healthy foods, meals and diets

What did we find?

New Zealand’s food environments, especially children’s environments, are largely unhealthy, and policy implementation is low. The Government is not at the level of international best practice for many recommended food policies. Food industry commitments are relatively weak. More than half of the packaged food supply is unhealthy. Children and young people are exposed to considerable marketing of unhealthy foods through all media channels. Less than half of schools have nutrition policies. Most DHBs have strong and comprehensive nutrition policies. Healthy diets were on average more expensive than current diets but both diets were unaffordable for those on low incomes. The food retail environment is relatively obesogenic, especially in more deprived areas.