Families put health bottom of their list.Byline: By Megan Bolam
Healthy eating is bottom of the North-East's shopping list - with families spending more on cigarettes and alcohol than fruit and vegetables, a shock report reveals.
Alarming figures on household spending show the region trails behind the rest of the nation when it comes to healthy eating.
Families spend just pounds 4.60-a-week on fruit and veg - compared to a national average of pounds 6.40.
Experts warned last night that the region is sitting on a health timebomb and called for an urgent change in eating and shopping habits.
The alarming figures were revealed in the 2003-04 Family Spending Survey, released today, which show families in the North-East are choosing to spend their earnings on alcohol, cigarettes and phone bills rather than fruit and vegetables and health products.
The report followed calls from the Government for a "fat tax" to be introduced on high-fat foods to tackle the growing problem of obesity.
On Monday The Department of Health revealed plans to boost fruit and vegetable intake by offering free vouchers to parents.
The survey, by the Office for National Statistics, shows families in North-East spend an average of pounds 10.90 a week on alcohol and tobacco-related products
compared to pounds 4.60 a week on fruit and vegetables - less than anywhere else in the country.
This was just a small fraction of their grocery bill - the cheapest in the country at pounds 38.90.
Families choose to put talk time before their health and fork out pounds 9.80 a week for phone bills.
But they neglect health products and prescriptions with bills coming to just pounds 3.20 - well below the national average of pounds 4.70.
Overall household spending in the region was the lowest in the country.
We pay out pounds 340.80 a week, compared to the average of pounds 400.30.
Eugene Milne, deputy medical director of Tyne and Wear Tyne and Wear, former metropolitan county, NE England. Created in the 1974 local government reorganization, the county embraced the Newcastle upon Tyne conurbation and comprised five metropolitan districts: Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Strategic Health Authority, said the report highlighted the need to educate children in the region on the importance of eating fruit and vegetables. He said: "We already know from past surveys that children are eating less fruit and vegetables in this part of the country than any other Government region.
"This report emphasises the need for people to take the five-a-day message much more seriously because eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day can significantly reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases.
"At the moment we are rolling out a fruit in schools programme across the North-East to do something about the problem.
"One of the biggest problems in the region is also the expenditure on alcohol and tobacco.
"We know the levels of tobacco consumed in the North-East is high and it makes me wonder where these people get the tobacco from because we know a lot is not through retail outlets."
Government officials yesterday announced they were considering introducing a tax on full-fat dairy products dairy products dairy npl → produits laitier
dairy products dairy npl → Milchprodukte pl, Molkereiprodukte pl , junk food junk food
Any of various prepackaged snack foods high in calories but low in nutritional value.
junk food and soft drinks.
Cigarette packet-style health warnings could also be slapped on alcoholic drinks to combat binge drinking binge drinking An early phase of chronic alcoholism, characterized by episodic 'flirtation' with the bottle by binges of drinking to the point of stupor, followed by periods of abstinence; BD is accompanied by alcoholic ketoacidosis–accelerated lipolysis and and a VAT levied on fatty foods.
The proposals are part of a Government bid to drive down the mounting levels of obesity, especially among children.
Dr Chris Record, Consultant liver disease Liver Disease Definition
Liver disease is a general term for any damage that reduces the functioning of the liver.
The liver is a large, solid organ located in the upper right-hand side of the abdomen. physician at the Freeman Hospital The Freeman Hospital is an 800-bed tertiary referral centre in Newcastle, England.
The hospital is run by the Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Trust and is a teaching hospital for the University of Newcastle upon Tyne medical school. , who has been leading a campaign for the introduction of the cigarette packet-style warnings for alcohol welcomed the proposal.
He said: "We are sitting on a health timebomb, The figures are very alarming.
"This mirrors what I see for myself in treating patients.
"The advice is to eat fruit and vegetables every day - but they just ignore this.
"And yet compared to convenience foods - they are so much cheaper.
"I don't know why we have become so bad in this region.
"We drink more alcohol than anywhere else in the country as well.
"I think it's about educating people about the benefits of vegetables and fruit.
"They contain antioxidants Antioxidants
Substances that reduce the damage of the highly reactive free radicals that are the byproducts of the cells.
Mentioned in: Aging, Nutritional Supplements
n. which help fight against a number of problems and of course they are low calories.
"The British Society of Gastroenterology The British Society of Gastroenterology is a British professional organisation of gastroenterologists, although it also has surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, scientists, nurses, dietitians, and others amongst its members. It was founded in 1937. It is a registered charity. want a health warning on all alcohol products which says the number of units in the product and what is safe because we feel a lot of people who drink excessively don't know what is safe.
"We want to target those who are at risk and we feel that a health warning is the best way of doing that."