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The Consumer Council calls for addressing the price gaps between healthy food and unhealthy food

The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee marked World Diabetes Day with a meeting devoted to reducung the price of the healthy food basket. The Committee Chairman said that "this is one of the biggest absurdities in the Israeli economy; on the one hand, the state supervises and essentially subsidizes unhealthy staple products, which encourages consumers to purchase them, while on the other hand [the economy] invests billions to alleviate health-related problems that stem from the consumption of unhealthy food products. This is foolish behavior." He added that he intends to take the matter in hand and not let up until he finds a way to reduce the healthy food basket, and criticized the government, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economy, for having done nothing about it.

Israel Consumer Council economist, Gil Bergfreund, said that consumers choose the products on the shelf according to their price and consume the cheap products rather than the healthy ones. According to Bergfreund, price surveys conducted by the Council found that healthy products run between 40 percent and 120 percent more than the cost of staple products , and every solution must also address the gap in consumer price. He added that Europe solved the problem by imposing taxes on harmful food products or by granting agricultural subsidies to farmers, and supports the proposal to let the retail chains feel uncomfortable by showing the difference between the price they pay to farmers and the price on the shelf and introduce price controls on healthy products.

A representative of the Ministry of Economy and Industry admitted that the ministry had attempted to give economic incentives to food producers, but the move did not succeed, and said that it was necessary to rethink. The Director of the Israel Nutritional Security Council presented data according to which most of the food prices in Israel in 2005 were low compared to average prices in developed countries, whereas today prices have shot up, and the price of whole wheat bread is 67 percent higher than the average in developed countries; meat prices are 22% higher, and fruits and vegetables, which were 40% lower than average in 2005, are currently only 8% lower than average. It must be understood that this is a war and that the leading cause of death in Israel is an unhealthy diet. The coordinator of the Forum for a Healthy Lifestyle, Itai Gottler, commended the Chairman, MK Eitan Cabel and said that the entity preventing change in the composition of the food basket under supervision is the Ministry of Finance, which is not interested in dealing with the issue.

President of the Farmers' Federation said that the gap between the price for the farmer and the consumer price had increased, and those who gain are the 4 large retail chains, and he proposed forcing them to cut the shelf price to the price they paid the farmer. Conversely, director of the Food Industries Association, Galia Sagi, said that food manufacturers are working to improve products and develop new products tailored to the wishes of consumers, but that they encounter regulatory barriers.

A representative of the Budget Division at the Ministry of Finance and Chairman of the Prices Committee said that the price control tool is not intended to motivate citizens to consume one or another product, just as there is no control over the prices of sugar-sweetened beverages or cigarettes. He maintained that control creates distortions and may harm competition and remove from the market bakeries that do not meet the controlled price. Chairman of the Economics Committee, concluded: "The data show an urgent need for a change in perception, while the government authorities are not ready for this and do not understand what we are talking about." He reiterated that he would personally handle the matter.

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The Israel Consumer Council is the largest consumer organization in Israel. It is a statutory, non-profit corporation which works to defend consumers and protect their rights, by handling complaints, seeking solutions..