Sanity at last. This week's Foresight report on the obesity epidemic included some pretty scary numbers. But underscoring its predictions was the reasoned opinion that our biology is out of synch with our environment: that automation, public transport, and money-rich but time-poor people were all factors in this problem.
To the British Heart Foundation, however, the government is giving up. Listening to Radio 4's Today programme this week I was encouraged when policy director Betty McBride talked about a balanced diet. Less balanced was her solution: 1. Ban all 'junk food' all the time (including olive oil, Bran Flakes, Marmite and cheese according to the definition BHF supports). 2. Introduce cookery classes for all children. 3. Give teeth to the FSA's traffic light system.
I profess I rather like the idea of cookery classes for kids. But if these solutions alone could avoid the Armageddon the report suggests, politics would be a lot easier. We've quoted extensively the minimal impact that advertising has on junk food consumption, but the message does not seem to get through. So let's consider tobacco: after years of advertising bans, and in recent years the ban on smoking in public and now in pubs and restaurants, cigarette sales are expected to be down less than two per cent this year. As to traffic lights, as John Humphrys says, "we don't eat labels".
But Ms McBride ignores a more important point: that it's not just in the shopping aisles that people get fat. It's in the chippy, down the pub, at the football stadium, or on the train. Convenience, I read in a Mintel report the other day, is a bigger trend than organic, fair trade and premiumisation put together. Perhaps that will be the next target.