But two other reports out last week brought me down to earth. The first was early findings from a Reading University team asking: what would food supply chains look like if everyone ate healthy diets? It's a question a team brought together by us at City posed to the Curry Commission in 2002. We were frustrated about health being seen as a bolt-on extra rather than intrinsic to food supply chains.
The Reading team, working for the government's Rural Economy and Land Use programme, begins to answer us. The changes would
be considerable. Fruit and veg would need to rise by 50% and cheese, confectionery and soft drinks fall by 30-75%. The implications are awesome.
An issue we did succeed in getting into the Curry report was food marketing, which helps shape diet. The battle over TV ads continues but marketers are shifting to other formats such as texting, online
advertising, and product placement. Last week, the Kaiser Foundation in the USA produced the first health analysis of one of these, online food ads. Using Nielsen Net-Rating data, it found the 77 websites studied received 12.2 million visits from children aged 2-11 years; 73% of websites analysed were using advergames (adverts masquerading as games), some sites offering up to 60 advergames and promoting repeat use; 64% used viral marketing, encouraging kids to rope in their friends; 53% linked up to TV ads, too; 44% made what were, in effect, nutrition claims. The researchers concluded this blurred the distinction between education and advertising, creating "advercation".
Oh dear. Will any company take the moral high ground and ban use of such underhand techniques on children? If not, companies are entering dangerous territory. As with online betting in the US, marketers
playing footloose and fancy free should not be surprised if the public policy message suddenly looms up: "Regulate. More! Deeper! Faster!"