For every £1 spent on food & drink in Birmingham, it costs the city £0.90

Few realise just how much the dietary effects of the food and drink sector cost us here in Birmingham, as in every city across the UK.

The stark economic stresses are summed up by these figures:

We spend £3.4bn/year on food and drink here
(56% on household spend, 44% on catering services)


£2.6bn/year on obesity-related costs
£0.45bn/year on alcohol-related harm
plus dental care and mental health costs

i.e. for every £1 we spend on food and drink in the city, we spend £0.90p on its dietary effects.

Nearly all of the £0.90/£1 cost is locally borne. Nearly all of the profit on the £1 spend leaves the city.

note: & these locally-borne cost don’t include the costs of dental decay (for which I couldn’t find figures, although they are of grave concern to Birmingham Public Health; see, for example, this Evening Mail article). Nor of mental health care costs, which are impossible to quantify, though there is evidence of a relationship between a healthy diet and good mental health.

Nor do they take account of the the disposal or recycling costs of packaging; e.g. of the 132M Coca-Cola cans and bottles per year.**

Where the statistics above come from:

  1. Spend of £3.4bn/year is an extrapolated figure from Defra’s UK figures; see page 7 of the Food Statistics Pocketbook 2016
    in an earlier document, I gave the inaccurate figure of £4.02bn)
  2. Obesity-related costs of £2.6bn/year are from Dr Andrew Coward, Chair of the South Birmingham CCG*
  3. The cost of £0.45bn/year on alcohol-related harm is an extrapolated figure of national statistics from the Government Alcohol Strategy 2012

* Dr Coward’s figure is higher than the figure we can extrapolate from those from the Public Health National Obesity Observatory. I queried this with Dr Coward, who explained that his figure included the knock-on economic costs of lost working days. I was also told by PHE that the figure Dr Coward used, given the knock economic costs, was in line with theirs which hadn’t taken account of these knock-on costs.

** There are more recent Defra stats for 2017 on the UK food and drink spend, I’ve kept the 2016 figures which is closer to Dr Coward’s analysis as it’s the ratio of spend to cost that matters.

*** see also: Coca Cola and its effects on us and the city (Sept 2015). In this report, I quoted 58M cans and bottles per year for this company alone in Birmingham. As I couldn’t find how I’d calculated that figure, however, I recalculated it — it appears it’s actually 132M cans or bottles per year for just this one company in Birmingham. Whatever the figure is for this company, the total cost of disposing of drinks packaging from all companies in this city alone is huge.

photo of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham by Elliott Brown

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