The relative caloric prices of healthy and unhealthy foods differ systematically across income levels and continents

Derek D Headey and Harold H Alderman
International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC, USA

New study from researchers at IFPRI looks at the relative caloric prices (RCPs) for different food categories across 176 countries and how they relate to dietary indicators and nutrition outcomes. Overall, the authors found that most non cereal foods were relatively cheap in high income countries, including high sugar and high fat foods. In lower income countries, healthy foods were generally expensive, especially most animal sourced foods and fortified infant cereals. This study shows that the affordability of both healthy and unhealthy foods varies markedly across regions and levels of development, and that these variations in relative prices are strongly associated with nutrition outcomes. Given these findings, the authors call for future research to focus on how to alter relative prices to achieve better dietary and nutrition outcomes. 

Because price is determined by a  complex mix of supply and demand side factors - including policies, taxes and incentives, as well consumer behaviour and demand - fostering dialogue, collaboration and action between public and private sectors is an important way to facilitate the consumption of safe and nutritious foods by making them more available and affordable. 


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This resource has been peer reviewed