March 2015 Newsletter

Rudd Center Recent Publications

Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are a growing public health threat to youth, according to a new Rudd Center study published March 24 in the April issue of Nutrition Reviews. The review of the emerging evidence shows that highly-caffeinated, often sugar-laden energy drinks can harm children and adolescents, and supports physicians' groups and policy makers calling for restrictions on marketing and sales of these drinks to children under 18.

Sugary Drinks

A new Rudd Center study published March 11 in Public Health Nutrition found that many parents believe that some drinks with high amounts of sugar are healthy options for children, despite public health messages about the importance of reducing consumption of sugary drinks. The RWJF-funded study highlights the need for increased attention to ingredient claims on product packaging and other marketing messages that may mislead parents to believe that some sugary drinks are healthful.

Healthier Lunches

After the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s healthier school meal standards took effect, students ate more fruit and threw away less of their entrees and vegetables than before the changes, according to a new Rudd Center study published March 4 in Childhood Obesity.

Rudd Center in the News

Like tobacco, energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster should be kept behind the counter with sales limited to adults, Jennifer Harris, UConn Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives, told USA Today. The March 24 article featured our study showing that energy drinks are a growing public health threat to youth.

Keep the updated healthier school lunch standards intact: This was the rallying cry from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell in an opinion piece that also appeared in USA Today March 24. They cited the Rudd Center study showing students are eating more of the healthy food and throwing less food away since the new standards took effect.

The Washington Post featured a high profile story on the Rudd Center’s study on parents’ beliefs about sugary drinks. The findings help explain why so many provide them to their children. The March 11 article sheds light on how parents are still being misled by clever marketing.

USA Today published a hard-hitting piece on the Rudd Center study showing that many parents wrongly believe that some drinks with high amounts of added sugar are healthy options for their children. As writer Bruce Horovitz put it in the March 11 article, “Bamboozled by misleading product marketing and labeling, parents have failed to get the message that sugary drinks – beyond soda – are not healthy for kids.”

Obesity is harming the U.S. economy in surprising ways, according to a March 5 Bloomberg Business article. Among the experts quoted, Tatiana Andreyeva, the Rudd Center’s Director of Economic Initiatives, noted that obesity is correlated with an increase in absenteeism from work because of health issues.

The updated, healthier school lunch standards are a major part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity – a point noted in The New York Times March 4 article on the Rudd Center study that adds to evidence that the changes can succeed in helping students eat healthier.

Time magazine’s March 4 article on the Rudd Center study showing the new healthier school lunch standards are having the desired effects included key data: “students choosing fruit in the cafeteria increased from 54 percent to 66 percent. Children are also throwing away less food, with researchers noting that students ate 84 percent of their (healthier) entrees, up from 74 percent in 2012.”

ABC News carried a piece on a Puerto Rico proposal to fine parents of obese children, which Rudd Center Deputy Director Rebecca Puhl said is "unfair and inappropriately penalizes and stigmatizes parents. Much broader societal changes are required to effectively address the challenge, as "childhood obesity is a highly complex issue."

What's Simmering With Our Friends 

The Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a collaborative initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, has published a handy guide for parents called How to Support Kids’ Nutrition in Your Child’s School. The guide includes a short video that explains how the updated standards are making school lunches healthier for our children.

Efforts by moms and dads to teach their kids about nutrition “are undermined when companies like Dr Pepper Snapple Group hawk empty calories to kids and use popular characters like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to do it,” says the Food Marketing Workgroup – a network of more than 200 organizations and experts dedicated to eliminating harmful food marketing. In March, the Workgroup asked Dr Pepper Snapple Group to adopt a strong policy to protect children from soda advertising.

The MomsRising Blog carried an article by the National WIC Association’s Public Policy Nutritionist, Martelle Esposito, alerting moms and mothers-to-be about a survey to help inform the association of existing gaps in knowledge regarding nutritional health and provide insights into where access to nutrition and breastfeeding services and support is lacking.

News to Chew On

Mother Jones
The Navajo Nation Will Soon Have the Country's First-Ever Junk-Food Tax
The Washington Post
When the School Lunch Lady Works With a Chef, Kids Eat Their Fruits and Vegetables
Mother Jones
Beyond Happy Meals: 5 Devious Ways McDonald's Markets to Kids
The New York Times
A Cheese 'Product' Gains Kids' Nutrition Seal
Huffington Post
Burger King Follows McDonald's Lead, Drops Soda From Kids' Meals
In New Orleans, Training a Lost Generation While Feeding the Next