Pandemic and lockdowns drive food prices up but send diet quality down – dpa international


Dining outdoors in Ireland was permitted again on June 7 after a virus lockdown that lasted around 5 months (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions have jacked up food prices around the world and spurred a surge in unhealthy eating, according to a set of papers published on Monday by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN).

According to author Caroline Um of the American Cancer Society, the researchers found a “decrease in the consumption of many food groups, particularly healthy foods such as vegetables and whole grains, compared to before the pandemic.”

“We saw panic buying, problems in the food supply chain, increases in food prices and rising unemployment rates,” Um said.

Researchers at Tufts University said food prices went up across 133 countries as pandemic-related curbs were introduced.

“More stringent restrictions were linked with a higher price of food and a higher ratio of food prices to prices across all consumer goods,” they said.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said last week that world food prices in May were almost 40 per cent higher than one year ago, a “sharp increase” it said “reflected a surge in prices for oils, sugar and cereals.”

In the US, a survey of almost 4,000 people by the government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that “a sizeable portion of Americans increased their consumption of unhealthy snacks, desserts and sugary drinks during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Another survey, of around 60,000 Americans and covering the period either side of the 2007-9 recession, suggests “suggests dietary quality plummeted along with the economy.”

The findings suggest that economic factors weigh heavily on diets, with the American Cancer Society’s Um warning that “the shift in consumption of fewer healthy foods could continue” leading to higher incidences of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease that in turn heighten vulnerability to Covid-19.

Older people already afflicted by such co-morbidities have made up most of the world’s coronavirus-related deaths.

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