Experts call for urgent fast food legislation after Aucklanders spent $6.7 billion on takeaways over past six years

Aucklanders have spent a whopping $6.7 billion on takeaways over the past six years. 

That's according to new Eftpos data analysed by Health Coalition Aotearoa and the Helen Clark Foundation.

Experts say we're living in an epidemic of obesity and are calling for urgent fast food legislation.

It's fast and convenient - but for many vulnerable communities, it's far too close to home.               

"We're at a church hall and you can literally look outside and look at a couple of fast food outlets," Pasifika dietitian Mafi Funaki-Tahifote told Newshub.

"There's also the aroma - so it's not just the visual, but you also are smelling that taste."      

Over the last six years, Auckland's fast food and takeaway businesses banked around $3 million every day. 

Ninety-three percent of the top fast food sales were in areas deemed to have high deprivation; like Manukau, West Wiri and Westgate.

"This didn't happen by accident - this is specific targeting of those communities with the least amount of money and the least amount of time. I think it's predatory behaviour," Professor Boyd Swinburn, Health Coalition Aotearoa chair, told Newshub. 

Health experts said it fuels a vicious cycle of health inequities.

"To break that cycle, it's hard, because it has become generational," Funaki-Tahifote said. 

"It shouldn't be determined by where you live. Anywhere in New Zealand should have similar platforms, or access, to healthier choices."

So what does that data actually look like in Auckland? The report said that's the equivalent of around 143 million Big Macs or 896 million slices of pizza each year. 

It's not just wallets that are suffering - but our health, too.

"We're talking about chronic conditions of diabetes, of heart disease, of high blood pressure," Funaki-Tahifote said.

"We see a lot of dads and a lot of mums taken away in their 20s and 30s and those can be prevented, if we do actually provide a food environment that gives people more choices."

Health Coalition Aotearoa chair Professor Boyd Swinburn.
Health Coalition Aotearoa chair Professor Boyd Swinburn.

Professor Swinburn said regulations are far from adequate. 

"We've got an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Successive governments have done very little to try to prevent that," Swinburn said. 

"All parents want healthy neighbourhoods for their children - yet the community doesn't have a say, nor does even the Council."

Auckland Regional Public Health Service and Health Coalition Aotearoa are calling for urgent new legislation that clamps down on unhealthy food and drinks advertising.

"The power to regulate or not regulate does sit with politicians because local governments can only really act if they have national legislation that allows them to," Swinburn said. 

"We don't have regulations on junk food marketing to kids. We don't have regulations to try to remove or prevent these food swamps from happening - there's a whole raft of policies that can be implemented, which just haven't."

Communities are left hungry for solutions, and not more fast food.