August 2016 Newsletter

Rudd Center Recent Publications

"Look-alike" Smart Snacks Confuse Parents, Allow Junk Food Brands to Market to Youth in Schools

Unhealthy snack food brands such as Cheetos and Froot Loops have reformulated their products to meet new USDA Smart Snacks nutrition standards so they can be sold to kids in schools. But these products often come in packages that look similar to the unhealthy versions of the brands that are still sold in stores and advertised widely to youth. Selling these "look-alike" Smart Snacks in schools confuses students and parents, provides companies a way to market their brands to kids in schools, and may hurt schools' credibility, according to a new study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut.

The study, published Aug. 31 in Childhood Obesity, is the first to examine how selling these look-alike products in schools affects attitudes about the brands and perceptions of schools selling these products. "The practice of selling look-alike Smart Snacks in schools likely benefits the brands, but may not improve children's overall diet and undermines schools' ability to teach and model good nutrition," said Jennifer Harris, UConn Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives, and lead author of the study.

Study Shows Most Foods and Beverages Advertised on TV In Mexico Don't Meet Any Nutritional Standards

A study published online in August in the journal BMC Public Health showed that the majority of foods and beverages advertised on television in Mexico do not comply with any nutritional quality standards, and thus should not be marketed to children. Sofía Rincón-Gallardo Patiño, the lead author, visited the UConn Rudd Center and collaborated with the Center's food marketing team. Jennifer Harris, Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives, is a co-author of the study. The researchers analyzed TV advertising from December 2012 to April 2013, before Mexico introduced regulations in 2015 to limit unhealthy food and beverage advertising to children. The researchers found that 64 percent of the products advertised did not comply with the Mexican standards, which are much weaker than those applied by the World Health Organization in Europe and by the United Kingdom. This was the first study to examine the nutritional quality of foods and beverages advertised on Mexican TV.

Rudd Center in the News

Jennifer Harris, UConn Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives, commented in an Aug. 18 Live Science article that explored this question: "Can a Fitness Tracker Make Eating a Happy Meal Healthier?" The answer from Dr. Harris is no. "Giving kids a fitness tracker isn't going to make up for the fact that kids are eating a Happy Meal," she said. "Physical activity is great," Dr. Harris said. "But it's not going to offset the extra calories, fat and sodium that are in McDonald's Happy Meals."

Our study on "look-alike" Smart Snacks sold in schools was featured Aug. 31 by outlets including UConn Today, Health News Digest, and The Lunch Tray blog.

Also on Aug. 31, Dr. Harris was quoted in a Vox article, "It's easy to become obese in America. These 7 charts explain why." In a section on heavy advertising of unhealthy food, Harris explained that the public health community has pressured food companies to change how they advertise products to children, and there's been some progress. "Now there's recognition that the marketing does affect kids' diets in harmful ways. Now the discussion is around what's healthy and what's unhealthy. Now we're in the details," she said.

Our 2015 report showing that food companies disproportionately target their TV advertising for junk food brands to black and Hispanic youth was referenced in an Aug. 15 Food.Mic article on how "Coke Is Using the Rio Olympics to Target Latinos - And It's a Huge Problem."

The Daily Meal included a Rudd Center study and quoted Director Marlene Schwartz in an Aug. 19 article, "How Much Sugar Is In Your Food And Drink?"

Our Center's work was featured in a World Obesity (e-newsletter) Aug. 4, "USA: Children’s exposure to TV food ads falls to pre-2007 levels" and in an Aug. 23 article in The Los Angeles Times, "Berkeley sees a big drop in soda consumption after penny-per-ounce 'soda tax'."

What's Simmering With Our Friends 

New American Heart Association Advice: Children Should Eat Less than 25 grams of Added Sugars Daily

The American Heart Association issued new recommendations designed to keep kids healthy, advising that children ages two to 18 should eat or drink less than six teaspoons of added sugars daily. The scientific statement was published in the AHA journal Circulation.

News to Chew On

Physicians May Be Missing Their Most Important Tool
Online Athens (Georgia)
America’s school lunch makeover starting to make positive changes in students’ eating habits
75% of Americans say they eat healthy – despite evidence to the contrary
True Viral News
Veteran CDC employee resigns after she was caught helping Coca-Cola gain political influence over health authorities
Taxes on Groceries, Not Soda, Are Hurting Poor Americans
Beverage Daily
Report calls for more measures to reduce energy drink consumption among children
Civil Eats
Why This Food Bank is Turning Away Junk Food
PR Daily
Skin irritations force McDonald’s to ‘swiftly’ pull new kids fitness trackers
The Drum (UK)
Sainsbury’s boss, Mike Coupe, slams Theresa May’s childhood obesity plan
Today Health and Wellness (NBC)
Abigail Breslin slams Gold’s Gym for body-shaming ad
Berkeley’s Soda Tax Is Working And That Could Be A Game Changer