Fruit and veg advocate backs Judith Collins' message on obesity being a 'personal choice'

Fruit and vegetable advocate Jerry Prendergast says people have got choices.
Fruit and vegetable advocate Jerry Prendergast says people have got choices. Photo credit: Newshub / Getty

National leader Judith Collins' obesity comments sparked outrage from Kiwis and health experts - but others are agreeing with her, saying it's a matter of lifestyle and good education.

Collins on Tuesday said Kiwis need to take "personal responsibility" for their weight, calling it a "weakness" and that being obese is a "personal choice".

United Fresh, which represents the New Zealand produce industry, says it's a choice people can change.

"The volume and subsistence from the bag of apples will last a whole lot longer than the $2.99 bag of chips - you can't make those statements," United Fresh president Jerry Prendergast told Newshub.

"If you buy fruit and vegetables that are in season, the value that you are able to get from those fruits and vegetables are much higher.

"You're not buying tomatoes in winter for $15 a kilo, you're not buying $30 courgettes in the middle of winter. Do you know how much they are today? $5 a kilo."

Prendergast says fresh fruits and vegetables keep people fuller and healthier for longer.

"I was delighted to hear Judith pass the comment about how it's not the Government's decision to be the sugar police and I think that's a good call - people have got choices."

But Nutrition and Global Health professor Dr Swinburn told Newshub Collins' victim-blaming is "coming from a place of privilege".

"Families live in neighbourhoods which are surrounded by all the different fast food outlets which use cheap ingredients full of sugar, fat, and salt.

"It's no wonder that people do gain weight," he says.

Social media users agreed and said poverty plays a huge part in obesity.

"Healthy food is so unaffordable and unhealthy food is so cheap. It's cheaper to buy pies and chippies than it is to buy fruit and veg," one said.

"A bag of apples costs more than a bag of potato chips, and a 2 litre bottle of milk costs more than a 2 litre bottle of coke," another commented.