Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
The Rudd Center Health Digest

January 2011

President Obama Signs Child Nutrition Bill

President Obama signed into law the child nutrition bill, also known as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, in December. The bill has been a top priority for First Lady Michelle Obama, who advocated for it as part of her Let's Move campaign.

The bill provides funding to subsidize meals for children from lower-income families and help communities establish local farm-to-school networks. It also authorizes the federal government to establish nutritional standards for all foods sold on school grounds.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Low-Sugar Cereals just as Popular Among Children as Sugary Cereals

There is good news for parents who fear their children will only eat breakfast if served sugary cereals, according to a new study by the Rudd Center published in the journal Pediatrics. Results indicate that children will eat and enjoy healthier breakfast cereals with low amounts of sugar, especially when served with fruit and a small amount of additional sugar.

The study looked at 91 school-aged children. The children were given either high- or low-sugar cereal. Both groups had the option to add sugar and fruit to their cereal. Children in the low-sugar group consumed a greater proportion of calories from fresh fruit, whereas added sugar comprised the majority of calories in the high-sugar cereal meal.

“These findings show that children will eat low-sugar varieties of cereals. And parents can make these options even more nutritious by adding fresh fruit to the bowl,” said Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, MBA, Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives, lead author.

“Even if parents add a small amount of table sugar,” Dr. Harris noted, “this strategy would reduce the amount of added sugar in children’s diets while promoting a balanced first meal of the day.”

Rudd Center Launches Spring Seminar Series


Kevin W. Concannon, Under Secretary of Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was a speaker in the Fall 2010 Seminar Series.

The Rudd Center has hosted many renowned experts in academics, public policy, and the media to discuss their work and its implications for the study of obesity, food policy, and weight bias. The Spring 2011 Seminar Series will welcome Brian Wansink from Cornell University and formerly the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Eric Mar, Supervisor on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the chief supporter of a law to ban restaurants from including toys in kids meals that do not meet nutrition criteria; and Cheryl Healton, President and Chief Executive Officer of Legacy, producer of the truth® national youth tobacco prevention counter-marketing campaign.

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

January 19, 12:30 pm
Matthew L. Myers
President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
Advocacy Lessons from the Battle to Reduce Tobacco

January 31, 12:30 pm
Brian Wansink, PhD
John Dyson Endowed Chair, Applied Economics and Management Department, Cornell University; Director, Cornell Food and Brand Lab
Mindless Eating Solutions

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held at the Rudd Center. The seminars are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The full schedule for our Spring Seminar Series is available online and for download.

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive reminders of upcoming seminars and schedule changes.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against McDonald’s Happy Meals

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and a California mother have filed a class action suit against McDonald’s for deceptive advertising to children through the chain’s practice of including toys with Happy Meals. The lawsuit charges that the toys included in Happy Meals attract children to the restaurant and encourage them to develop a preference for nutritionally poor foods at a very young age.

The Rudd Center’s recent Fast Food FACTS report found that child-targeted marketing by fast food restaurants works. Forty percent of parents surveyed reported that their child asks to go to McDonald’s at least once a week while 15% of preschoolers ask to go every day.

According to its press release, CSPI first notified McDonald’s in June that it might be the target of a lawsuit and offered to meet with executives to reach an agreement and avoid litigation, but McDonald’s refused. McDonald's has pledged to fight the lawsuit.

Dannon Forced to Remove Yogurt Health Claims

Dannon Co. Inc. has agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general in 39 states over health claims it made in marketing and packaging some of its yogurt products. In addition to removing the claims, the company will pay $21 million to the states involved in the case. Dannon cannot make additional claims without the approval of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Consumers want and are entitled to accurate information when it comes to their health," according to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. "Companies like Dannon shouldn't exaggerate the strength of scientific support for their products."

Other food companies have removed health claims from their products. In response to the FDA crackdown on misleading nutrition claims, the Smart Choices Program announced in October 2009 that it would “voluntarily postpone active operations.” This move came shortly after Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced he was investigating the program. The Kellogg Company also reacted to public pressure on misleading labels in November 2009 by discontinuing the immunity health claims on Rice Krispies cereal boxes.

Rudd Center Spotlight: Matthew L. Myers

MyersMatthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, will discuss advocacy lessons from the battle to reduce tobacco use on January 19 during the Rudd Center’s Spring 2011 Seminar Series.

For over 25 years, Mr. Myers has participated in many national tobacco-related legislative efforts, working with tobacco prevention advocates and officials across the country. He served on the first advisory committee on tobacco issues for the Director General of the World Health Organization. Named by President Clinton in 1999, Mr. Myers co-chaired a Presidential Commission to examine the economic problems experienced by tobacco farmers and their communities and recommend solutions.

Mr. Myers was bestowed with the Harvard School of Public Health’s prestigious Julius B. Richmond award for his work as an advocate preventing tobacco industry marketing to children, and the American Cancer Society’s highest award, the Medal of Honor for Cancer Control, for his relentless work to eliminate tobacco use.


Mills Meets the Mark

Soon after the release of the Rudd Center’s Cereal FACTS report on the nutrition and marketing of cereal to youth, General Mills announced its plan to reduce the grams of sugar in cereals advertised to children under 12 to single-digits per serving. The company announced that the changes were to go into effect by the end of 2010.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH
Professor of Epidemiology, Associate Dean for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U, under the Yale University Health & Medicine – Nutrition & Obesity section, or can be subscribed to through an RSS Feed that automatically updates when new content is released. Podcasts can be listened to on a computer or downloaded to a music player.

Front Burner News

Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax May Reduce Weight


A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in stores could reduce weight by a pound or more and raise $2.5 billion in revenue each year, according to researchers at Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Research Triangle Institute International. Read more.

New National Health Goals Focus on Community

The recently released “Healthy People 2020” report is the government's ten-year agenda to improve America’s health by focusing on entire communities getting healthy. The report includes objectives for obesity rates, school nutrition standards, and food insecurity. Read more.

Nutrition Labels to Be Required on Meat Products

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that as of January 2012 packaging of popular cuts of meat must contain nutrition fact labels. The labels will include calorie content and total grams of fat and saturated fat. Read more.

Environment’s Influence on Children’s Food Choices

Friends, advertisements, and schools may be more influential than parents in the food choices children make, suggests research from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. Read more.

Army Revamps Training Diet

The Army is implementing changes to improve the diets of personnel at training sites across the nation. Changes include replacing soda with milk and juice, eliminating white bread, and color-coding healthy items. Read more.


Harsh Comments During the Holiday Season

A recent review of "The Nutcracker" ballet included criticism of one performer's body weight. Are size expectations appropriate, or just reinforcing stigma? Read more.

Weight Bias from Healthcare Providers Harm Overweight Patients

People who are overweight live with ridicule and are often stigmatized as lazy, undisciplined, unhappy, and mean. Stigma comes from family members, friends, teachers, employers, classmates, and shopkeepers. But more startling and potentially more damaging is the bias that comes from healthcare providers such as doctors and nurses. Read more.

Partnering with Food Corporations

Save the Children, a nonprofit for children in need, is working on securing a major grant from Coca-Cola to help finance their health and education programs, including a program to help curb childhood obesity. Save the Children recently was a strong advocate for soda taxes. Read more.

Decoding the Food Label

What is food and where is it coming from? Some people don't know or don't want to know. Read more.


Frito-Lay’s New "Natural" Snacks

Frito-Lay, the world’s largest snack maker, is launching a new product line in 2011 with 50% of its snacks made from “all-natural” ingredients. Until now, 30% of its line was "all natural." Read more.

Canadian Dietitians Want Stricter Guidelines on Food Advertising to Children


Dietitians of Canada, which represents over 60,000 nutrition professionals, has released a position paper calling for stronger controls on food advertising in the media and in locations where children gather. The group has pledged to work with the food industry to achieve this goal. Read more.