Big fry-up in Otara's fast-food alley

By Martin Johnston

Fat-soaked chicken in majority of takeaway shops contributes to area's obesity: expert.

Food options at Mate's Rates Takeaways. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Food options at Mate's Rates Takeaways. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The low price of unhealthy deep-fried chicken has made it a mainstay of takeaway food in low-income Otara in South Auckland.

After the Herald reported on a 9 per cent jump in national takeaway purchases in a year, the paper visited the Otara town centre's fast-food quarter and can confirm nutritionist David Hill's assertion that more than half of the takeaway shops sell deep-fried food, especially chicken.

Even some of the bakeries sell the crispy golden treat, alongside a strictly limited range of sandwiches. One bakery had just 12 sandwiches in its display cabinets, of which nine contained some salad.

Mr Hill said the fat-soaked chicken packed such an energy punch that it would contribute to the suburb's obesity, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, strokes and heart attacks.

He lamented the lack of options such as Subway - potentially healthier if they contained low-fat items and plenty of vegetables - although there is now a sushi shop which is away from the main food strip covered in his survey.

In the Counties Manukau health district, which incorporates South Auckland, 38 per cent of adults are obese, compared with 29 per cent for the country as a whole.

The Herald found that of the Otara food strip's 31 shop fronts on Bairds Rd and the carpark bordering East Tamaki Rd, 15 sell takeaways and eight sell groceries, fruit and vegetables or raw chicken. The rest are non-food premises.

A Manukau Institute of Technology mechanical engineering student, Gupy Jador, 26, bought fried chicken thighs and chips for lunch, as did several of his friends. "It just tastes nice," Mr Jador said of a lunch he eats possibly twice a week.

"KFC is all right. This is cheaper. I only get KFC if it's for the family."

At one shop, fried chicken thighs cost between $2 and $2.70, depending on their size, and drumsticks cost $1.

Cao Yingjun, of Mate's Rates Takeaways, said chicken was very popular with her customers. "I think they love chicken. Chicken is cheaper than pork and beef and steak."

Mr Hill said that because the poor-quality food on offer in Otara could be sold so cheaply, Government regulations were needed to encourage consumption of healthier options.

But Labour and National administrations have ruled out fat taxes and National ditched Labour's healthy-food-in-schools policy.

- NZ Herald

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