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Med J Aust. 2007 Jan 1;186(1):9-14.

The increasing cost of the basic foods required to promote health in Queensland.

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Health Promotion Unit, Population Health Branch, Queensland Health, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.



To assess changes in the cost and availability of a standard basket of healthy food items (the Healthy Food Access Basket [HFAB]) in Queensland over time.


A series of four cross-sectional surveys (in 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2004) describing the cost and availability of foods in the HFAB over time. In the latest survey, 97 Queensland food stores across the five Australian Bureau of Statistics remoteness categories were compared.


Cost comparisons for HFAB items by remoteness category for the 97 stores surveyed in 2004; changes in cost and availability of foods in the 81 stores surveyed since 2000; comparisons of food prices in the 56 stores surveyed in 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2004.


In 2004, the Queensland mean cost of the HFAB was $395.28 a fortnight. The cost of the HFAB was 29.6% ($113.89) higher in "very remote" areas than in "major cities" (P < 0.001). Between 2001 and 2004, the Queensland mean cost of the HFAB increased by 14.0% ($48.45), while in very remote areas the cost increased by 18.0% ($76.93) (P < 0.001). Since 2000, the annualised per cent increase in cost of the HFAB has been higher than the increase in Consumer Price Index for food in Brisbane. The cost of healthy foods has risen more than the cost of some less nutritious foods, so that the latter are now relatively more affordable.


Consumers, particularly those in very remote locations, need to pay substantially more for basic healthy foods than they did a few years ago. Higher prices are likely to be a barrier to good health among people of low socioeconomic status and other vulnerable groups. Interventions to make basic healthy food affordable and accessible to all would help reduce the high burden of chronic disease.

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