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Food consumption in Australia compared with Mediterranean countries (1962-1998)

As part of our study of Mediterranean Diets and their influence in Australia, we have collected consumption data for 15 major commodities from FAO Food Balance Sheets for the years 1962-1998 and calculated the averages all in kg/head/year over this 37 yr period for Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.


 
Countries Potato Rice Wheat Cereals Maize Fruits Vegetables
Middle
Mediterranean countries
35.5 4.5 146.5 173 4 81.5 143
Range of 15 Mediterranean countries 15-106 0.7-30 97-188 108-233 0.7-91 25-164 52-232
Australian average 53 4 85 95 5 85 74

The table shows the "median" average consumption of each commodity (ie consumption in the countries with the 9th and 10th highest consumption of the set of 18 Mediterranean countries). The second row shows the range of consumption of each commodity (lowest country's and highest country's consumption of that commodity). The third row shows Australian average consumption figures over 1962-98.
 
Compared with the Mediterranean countries, Australian consumption was below the bottom country of the range for wheat and cereals. It was within the Mediterranean range, but low for olive oil, vegetables and pulses. It was well within the Mediterranean range for potatoes, rice, maize, fruits, vegetable oils, fish and wine. Australian consumption was high, though still within the Mediterranean range, for animal fat. Australian consumption was at the top end of the range in the Mediterranean countries for milk and above the range for meat. By the end of the 1990s Australia's meat consumption had declined to coincide with the top of the Mediterranean range. Cereal consumption (according to FAO) was still below the Mediterranean range.
 
Countries Animal fat Vegetable oils Olive oil Fish Meat Milk Pulses Wine
Middle
Mediterranean countries
4.5 10 2.15 6 32.5 145.5 6.5 3
Range of 15 Mediterranean countries 1-20 3-18 0-19 1-34 14-103 31-252 2-11 0-90
Australian average 16 11 0.5 17 121 252 3 14

Differences between the Australian food consumption and that of Italy and Greece should not be taken to mean that Australian food habits are not as healthy. The latest "bottom line" health statistics, life expectancy at birth from WHO for 2000 show (mean for males and females combined): Greece 78.0, France 78.1, Italy 78.2 and Australia 78.7 years.

Ann Noah, A. S. Truswell, University of Sydney, Australia

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