August 2014 Digest Archive

Call for Stronger Nutrition Labels

Press Conference

Rudd Center’s Director, Marlene Schwartz, PhD, recently participated in a press conference with Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representative Rosa DeLauro, and Mike Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to strengthen its proposed Nutrition Facts label regulations.

The proposed labeling regulations would make it easier for consumers to make healthier choices by updating the label to highlight key parts, such as calories and serving sizes.  The proposed label would also update serving sizes to mathc how much people really eat and would require information about the amount of added sugars in a food products.

During the press conference, the lawmakers called on the FDA to establish a standardized front-of-package labeling syste and to commit to redesigning the nutrition label.  They also urged the FDA to establish a daily value for added sugars; establish definitions for terms such as "whole wheat," "natural," and "health"; and require the disclosures of the total amount of caffeine and of artificial colors and sweeteners of the front of the package.

Georgia's Controversial PSA on Childhood Obesity 

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta launched a controversial Public Service Announcement last September called "Rewind The Future" which has recently gone viral. The video takes place in 2030 and features a man having flashbacks of all of his unhealthy eating habits while lying lifelessly on an operating table during a heart attack.

The video aims to motivate parents to teach their kids about healthy habits before it is too late. However, Rudd Center’s Deputy Director, Rebecca Puhl, PhD, asserts that more careful consideration needs to be given to the kinds of public health messages that are disseminated, so that children and families who are struggling with obesity can be supported in their efforts to become healthier, rather than shamed and stigmatized.

"In our research examining public reactions to media campaigns about obesity, we found that tactics used by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta have less impact than campaigns that instead empower and support people to make improvements in their health behaviors," asserts Puhl.

Congresswoman DeLauro Proposes Federal Soda Tax 

SugarCongresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has introduced the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act of 2014 (SWEET Act), a bill to address obesity and diabetes by discouraging the excessive consumption of sugary beverages. 

The SWEET Act would amend the I.R.S. code to impose a one-cent tax on manufacturers for every teaspoon of added sugar in beverages.

The revenue from the tax would go toward initiatives designed to reduce the human and economic costs associated with health conditions related to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.

"Scientific research shows a very clear relationship between the consumption of sugary drinks and obesity, diabetes, and other chronic health problems," said Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center’s Director. "Given the pervasive marketing of sugary drinks in the U.S. today, we need to encourage families to make healthy choices. A soda tax has the potential to do just that."

Sugar consumption-related diseases are responsible for an estimated $190 billion in annual health care costs, over 20 percent of which is paid by American taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid, DeLauro said.  

Call for Ban on Ronald McDonald in Schools  

The Rudd Center, along with advocacy groups and health organizations, co-signed a letter to McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson asking him to stand by his word and stop marketing to children in schools using the company mascot, Ronald McDonald.

Spearheaded by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the letter points out that Ronald McDonald is often seen in schools despite CEO Thompson’s assertion during the 2014 Annual Shareholder Meeting that the company does not put Ronald in schools.

The co-signers want Mr. Thompson to clarify the company policy regarding Ronald McDonald’s appearance in schools, and to clarify whether this policy applies to all schools. They also want McDonald’s to explain why, if the company does not put the mascot in schools, several local McDonald’s locations continue to advertise his availability for in-school appearances.  

Manufactures use Health Halo Effect to Market Sugary Drinks

Flavored Waters

While soda sales have declined in recent years, sales of other sugary drinks such as energy, sports, tea and fruit drinks have increased, according to a new study commissioned by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and conducted by the University of California at Berkeley, Atkins Center for Weight and Health. Researchers attribute the increase in sales to misleading claims that the beverages are "healthy" and/or "performance-enhancing."

Using a marketing analysis conducted by the Rudd Center, researchers looked at twenty-one sugary drinks that are most commonly marketed and available to youth. They examined the nutritional content of the beverages and compared marketing claims with the products’ real effects.

Researchers found that manufacturers create a "health halo" effect on the beverages. The researchers assert that these beverages are increasingly purchased by consumers looking for "healthier" alternatives to soda. These claims are not only false but the beverages may in fact be harming children’s health.

"Despite the positive connotation surrounding energy and sports drinks, these products are essentially sodas without the carbonation," says lead author Patricia Crawford, DrPH, RD. "Rather than promote health as claimed in advertising, these drinks are putting our children’s health at risk." 

Issue Brief Released on Use of Toys to Market Unhealthy Kids’ Meals

Healthy Eating Research, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recently released an issue brief exploring the marketing of kids’ meals using toys. The document describes the issue and offers a number of policy solutions.

In 2009, fast food restaurants sold more than 1 billion meals with toys to children ages 12 and under. Offering toys with kids’ meals that have little nutritive value, is one of the most pervasive forms of food marketing aimed at children.

This practice not only influences kids’ food preferences, but tying toys to unhealthy foods can set kids up for a lifetime of poor habits. However, there is evidence that shows toys can also encourage children to choose healthier options as well.

Among the recommendations, Healthy Eating Research urged restaurants to only use toys to promote those children’s meals that meet strong, evidence-based nutrition standards; to provide better nutrition labeling for children’s menus; and to continue to work toward improving the nutritional quality of all children’s meals.  

Upcoming Events


Rudd Center’s Director to Present at Food+Health 2014 Conference 

Rudd Center’s Director, Marlene Schwartz, PhD, will speak at the Food+Health 2014 Conference, an event that will feature presentations and conversations on food policy, healthcare and nutritional medicine in the 21st century, the challenges of diet and lifestyle change, and the environmental impact of food production.

Hosted by Engine 2 and Forks Over Knives, the Food+Health 2014 Conference will feature other pioneers in food policy including John Mackey, Co-CEO and Founder of Whole Foods Market; Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., Surgeon, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease; Rip Esselstyn, author of The Engine 2 Diet; Mark Bittman, Author, Food Writer for The New York Times; and Neal Barnard, M.D., President, Physician's Committee on Responsible Medicine.

The event will take place on September 12-14, 2014 at the AT&T Education & Conference Center on the University of Texas Austin campus.

Food Day 2014

Food Day, a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food, will be held on October 24, 2014. Justice throughout the food chain - from farm workers to child consumers - will be the focus of the fourth annual event, as will increasing Amercans access to healthful food. 

Conceived of by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in 2011, the annual Food Day aims to encourage Americans to change their diets and work toward changing our nation’s food policies. Thousands of events will be held on Food Day, throughout the country to bring Americans together to celebrate real food.  

Webinar on Sugary Drink Warning Labels 

ChangeLab Solutions will host a webinar on Wednesday, September 24, to discuss "Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks: Promoting Informed Choices." 

Ian McLaughlin, Senior Staff Attorney and Program Director at ChangeLab Solutions, will moderate the discussion that will feature Harold Goldstein, Executive Director, California Center for Public Health Advocacy, Xavier Morales, Executive Director, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, and Jim O'Hara, Director of Health Promotion Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. 

Witnesses to Hunger Exhibit in New Haven, CT

Witnesses to Hunger is a growing national advocacy project featuring the voices and photography of parents who have experienced hunger and poverty firsthand. With sites in Philadelphia, Camden, Baltimore, and Boston, Witnesses to Hunger will work with community partners and photographers from New Haven to ignite a dialogue around hunger and poverty in Connecticut, and throughout our nation.

The opening reception will be held on Thursday, September 4, 2014 from 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm at New Haven City Hall. The exhibit will remain open from September 4 - 19, 2014.