Rising food prices changing what we eat: Oxfam

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People across the world are changing their eating habits because of the rising cost of food, according to a survey of 17 countries carried out by Oxfam and released Wednesday.

More than half of those questioned, or 53 percent, have modified their diet in the last two years, with 39 percent of those who had changed what they eat blaming higher prices.

In Kenya, 76 percent of respondents said they had changed their diet with 79 percent blaming the price of food. The second highest percentage was in South Africa with 69 percent.

But Western countries have also been affected with 55 percent of people in the United States saying they were no longer eating the same foods as two years ago, and 31 percent of Americans said it was because of higher prices.

Overall, cost was by far the biggest concern about food, with 66 percent citing it as one of their main worries.

The opinion poll was conducted ahead of a meeting of agriculture ministers from G20 countries in France next week when the global food price crisis will be discussed.

Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam, said: "Our diets are changing fast and for too many people it is a change for the worst.

"Huge numbers of people, especially in the world's poorest countries, are cutting back on the quantity or quality of the food they eat because of rising food prices."

A Guatemalan resident told Oxfam that poorer inhabitants could no longer afford sugar and a Kenyan national revealed that milk, margarine and jam were all now prohibitively expensive and that rice, beans and meat were heading the same way.

Lula da Silva, former president Brazil, told the charity: "It's not acceptable that a child ever goes without a daily glass of milk.

"It's not acceptable that a child has less than three meals a day, these are fundamental rights."

Oxfam called on G20 leaders to force food prices down by regulating commodity markets and reforming "flawed biofuels policies" which mean too much agricultural land is turned over to the production of biofuels.

The charity also called on G20 leaders to invest in small-scale producers in developing countries.

In total, 16,421 people were interviewed in April and May for the survey.

© 2011 AFP

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