Discounts 'devastating for diet'

03:16, Aug 20 2009
FAST FOOD: Tania Buck, a shareholder of Reduced to Clear in Rongotai,  takes her daughter Hope Vermeulen, 12,  for a quick tour of the cut-price food store.
FAST FOOD: Tania Buck, a shareholder of Reduced to Clear in Rongotai, takes her daughter Hope Vermeulen, 12, for a quick tour of the cut-price food store.

A new discount store selling junk food will feed our growing obesity epidemic by encouraging bad eating habits, dieticians say.

Reduced To Clear has arrived in Wellington, selling products  - some past their best-before date -  at half the price or less when compared with supermarkets and dairies.

Rongotai's store, which opened yesterday, is the second in New Zealand.

Directors Sean Hills and Andy Vermeulen say they are helping reduce waste and offer cheap alternatives in a tough economic climate. "We see it as helping the manufacturers as well, because it's stuff they'd dump otherwise," Mr Vermeulen said.

Mr Hills said a lot of customers at their South Auckland store were from communities where treats were rarely afforded, and were happy to be able to buy novelties for children's birthday parties.

One of their major stockists is Cadbury. Cadbury spokesman Daniel Ellis said the company did not recommend selling products after its best-before date, but had an arrangement with Reduced To Clear its only such deal to sell excess stock. "Generally the supermarkets won't take it because they can't sell it in time."

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Nutritionists and health activists have criticised the deal and the shop, saying it is irresponsible to offer cut-price junk food to an increasingly overweight nation.

Fight the Obesity Epidemic's Robyn Toomath, a Wellington Hospital endocrinologist, said the new store was sending the wrong message to consumers.

"It's an encouragement to buy food they wouldn't normally buy, because it's 'value for money'," Dr Toomath said. The Government should not allow market forces to make junk food a more attractive option than it already was, and should subsidise healthy foods like fruit and vegetables.

"It fills me with dismay."

Nutritionist Sarah Burkhart said the lolly shop atmosphere of Reduced To Clear would be devastating for dieters.

"It's a matter of, if you don't think you can be sensible when you go there, you should stay away," she said.

Mr Vermeulen said the store was trying to expand its market to include more health foods.

"We are starting to get more groceries in. In Auckland, people used to go to the supermarket then come to our shop, now they're coming to ours and then going to the supermarket."

Mr Vermeulen said dairy owners often turned up at the Auckland store looking to on-sell their products at a mark-up, but Reduced to Clear had a policy against re-selling.

"We catch out a dairy owner about once a week, they usually give themselves away. One said he was buying 12 boxes of V for his daughter."

SHELF LIFE

Reduced to Clear stocks products that display a "best-before" date not a "use-by" date and can still be sold at a later time, but that supermarkets will not take. Some of its stock is sold weeks after the best-before date, but Andy Vermeulen says there are no health concerns and products are regularly checked for quality.

A date mark indicates the end of a food product's shelf life. Shelf life is the time that food can be kept before it starts to deteriorate. Manufacturers are responsible for determining the shelf life of their food products.

Foods should be consumed before the date mark expires to ensure the food's safety and quality.

Most packaged food products with a shelf life of less than two years require a date mark.

Food can be sold beyond its best-before date provided it is still fit for consumption, but food with a use-by date must not be sold after that time.

The label on a package of food must state any storage conditions needed to keep the food at its best.

- By STACEY WOOD, Dominion Post