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More FSA

July 12, 2010

(a.k.a. ‘Is my maths shit, or is the world actually mad?’)

My new-found (and, to those who have known me for years, somewhat unexpected) enthusiasm for numbers and graphs led me to make this:


You’ll have to click on it to be able to read the labels, but the gist of it is thus:

  • That medium size column on the LHS? That’s the total amount spent in the UK on food advertising. These are from the Advertising Statistics Yearbook 2000-2001 – I understand from the Advertising Association website that advertising spending overall has gone down quite a bit in recent years, but they charge for their data and I can’t find anything more up-to-date, or more specific regarding changes. The 2000-01 figures come from Tim Lang’s book Food Wars, which breaks the figures down further showing that healthier food receives a ‘negligible’ share of this: fruit and veg were £13,255,000 and £3,506,000 respectively, or 4% of the almost £0.5 billion total. 4%. For comparison, 15%, or £69,219,000, was spent on ready-to-eat cereals, and 7%, or £34,221,000, on ‘Potato crisps and snacks’. This is what the FSA is up against.
  • The teeny-weeny column in the middle? That, according to Reuters, is how much the FSA spends in a year, including paying its 2,000 staff and all other costs – £135 million. I don’t know how much goes directly towards promoting healthy eating (although this Guardian article says the Change 4 Life campaign has a £75 million marketing budget) but it is dwarfed by the food industry’s ad spend.
  • And the column on the RHS? Marion Nestle says the food industry has spent £830 million campaigning to defeat traffic light labelling, the system which the FSA proposed and Andrew Lansley described as “counter-productive”. Assuming this is over the two years since traffic light labelling was proposed in 2008, half of that amount (£415 million) also totally dwarfs the FSA’s annual budget. The £830 million figure appears to come from a report from Corporate Europe Observatory, available here, which makes interesting reading.

Talk about individual responsibility if you like, but people don’t make their food choices in a vacuum.

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