USDA report on food prices full of baloney, professor says

If you fill your shopping cart with healthy foods, it will cost you less than if you purchased highly processed “junk” food full of high fat and sugar content, according to a report recently released by the research arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Not so, says Adam Drewnowski, professor of epidemiology in the UW School of Public Health and director of the UW’s Nutritional Science program.

While USDA economists told USA Today that “the price of potato chips is nearly twice as expensive as the price of carrots by portion size,” Drewnowski says the government agency is misrepresenting the stats. The USDA, he says, is measuring food costs per gram as opposed to per calorie, thus making vegetables appear cheaper. One hundred grams of carrots may be cheaper than 100 grams of chocolate, but the carrots provide 40 calories as opposed to the 600 calories the same weight in chocolate provide.

Drewnowski’s latest research found that diets containing specific nutrients associated with lower risk of chronic disease cost more than diets with less of these nutrients. This cost variable may be one reason why lower income groups don’t comply with dietary guidelines and have the highest rates of diet-related chronic disease.

For more information about healthy diets and Adam Drewnowski’s work, go to