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

October 2011

Denmark Enacts Tax on Fatty Foods

Denmark has instituted a tax on foods that contain more than 2.3% saturated fat such as butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil, and some processed foods. Consumers will be taxed $3.00 per every 2.2 pounds of saturated fat in a product.

The tax was approved by parliament this past spring to curb unhealthy eating habits and increase the life expectancy of Danes.

“This is a major development for two reasons: It’s an entire country, and they’ve taken on a particular part of the food supply,” said Kelly Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director.

Arby’s Restaurant Introduces Healthier Kids’ Meals

Arby’s will serve healthier kids’ meals that automatically include apple slices and strawberry yogurt dipping sauce as the side item starting in October. Beverage choices will include low-fat plain milk, Capri Sun 100% fruit juice, and bottled water. While the healthy options are the default, parents will have the option to request French fries or a fountain drink as a substitute. The new kids’ meals have 40 percent fewer calories, 70 percent less fat, and 50 percent less sodium.

Potential Presidential Candidate Challenged Because of Body Weight

The Rudd Center objects to recent criticism of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose suitability as a potential presidential candidate has been challenged because of his body weight. The Rudd Center has no affiliation or position on Gov. Christie's political views, but is speaking out against this unfortunate example of weight discrimination.

"There is no reason to assume that a person can't be an effective political candidate or leader simply because of his or her body weight," said Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives at the Rudd Center. "Discounting an individual's credentials, training, accomplishments, or abilities because of body weight is discriminatory."

Recent research from the Rudd Center shows many Americans are in favor of laws that would prohibit weight discrimination, especially in the context of employment, where obese persons often face unfair hiring practices, wage penalties, and wrongful termination.

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

October 12, 12:30 pm
Lainie Rutkow, JD, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Can the Food Industry Legally Choose to Do No Harm?

October 26, 12:30 pm
Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, PhD
Professor of Epidemiology and Director, Office of Community Health, Yale School of Public Health
Early Life Nutrition Disparities and the Obesity Epidemic: Dietary Guidelines Implications

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

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 Fall Seminar Series is available online and for download.

SNAP, Soda, and USDA Policy: A Commentary by Kelly Brownell and David Ludwig

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently rejected a proposal by New York state to conduct a two-year experimental study to test the effects of prohibiting the use of SNAP (food stamps) to purchase sugary drinks in New York City. The aim of the study was to determine if the prohibition would reduce overweight and obesity among SNAP users.

Sugary drinks constitute a significant portion of calories in the American diet, and consumption has been shown to contribute to obesity and obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes. The USDA cited several reasons for the rejection, among them that the scope was too large and complex to implement and evaluate; the possibility of operational challenges if the city could not get the full cooperation of retailers; and confusion and possible stigmatization of SNAP recipients.

These concerns were addressed in a recent commentary published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Using federal dollars for the purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages reduces diet quality and promotes chronic diseases in a population with an increased risk of obesity-related diseases, according to the authors. The USDA should permit pilot studies by states, as requested in New York, or should conduct research to inform these urgent policy decisions, in order to test the benefits and drawbacks of this possible policy change.

The commentary was coauthored by Kelly Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director; and David Ludwig, MD, PhD, Children's Hospital, Boston.

Nickelodeon Reaches Young Children Through Advertisements Intended for Older Children

Because preschoolers commonly watch TV shows and commercials geared to older children, food and entertainment companies should do a better job of adhering to their own guidelines for limiting such exposure, the Rudd Center's Marlene Schwartz, PhD, wrote recently in the Huffington Post.

Her commentary followed a study in the journal Pediatrics suggesting that Nickelodeon's hit show, SpongeBob SquarePants, harms preschoolers’ skills associated with success in school, including working memory, problem-solving, and ability to focus. Nickelodeon says the show is not intended for children under age 6.

Dr. Schwartz, Deputy Director of the Rudd Center, questioned Nickelodeon’s claim. According to The Nielsen Co., an average of 689,000 preschoolers (ages 2 to 5) and 855,000 older children (ages 6 to 11) watch each regular episode of SpongeBob. In fact, one-quarter of the program’s audience is preschoolers. Further, SpongeBob airs from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm on weekdays, the time that most children ages 6-11 attend school.

Food ads also reach large numbers of children under 6 despite a 2006 pledge by ten leading food and beverage companies against the practice. Research conducted by the Rudd Center as well as the University of Illinois at Chicago show that children ages 2 to 5 view nearly as many TV food ads as older children. General Mills and Kellogg's were among the companies that made the pledge developed by the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative sponsored by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Federal Trade Commission Proposes Stricter Rules for Online Child Privacy Protection


The Federal Trade Commission recently proposed revisions to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law passed in 1998 to protect the privacy of children under 13, to ensure that privacy regulations for children keep up with all the changes that are happening in the online world.

The Commission’s plan would help safeguard children’s data on mobile phones and the internet. The revisions would have implications for food marketers who often target children with messages on the internet and through mobile devices.

Under the proposed new rules, children would not be tracked and profiled when online through the use of behavioral targeting and other techniques regularly used to collect information on internet and mobile phone users. Parents and children’s security and safety will also be better protected, since the proposed rules will cover a child’s geo-location data and photos posted online, and will impose new requirements to protect against data breaches.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

A Doctor’s Words Can Enforce Weight Stigma

The language that health care providers use when discussing a child's weight with parents can reinforce weight-based stigma and jeopardize discussions about health, according to a study recently published by the Rudd Center. The study appeared in the journal Pediatrics.

In a survey of parents of children ages 2 to 18, researchers asked their opinions about ten terms commonly used to describe weight in children. Parents said they preferred that doctors use the terms "weight" and "unhealthy weight" rather than "fat," "obese," and "extremely obese."

The paper was coauthored by the Rudd Center's Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives; Jamie Lee Peterson, MA, Research Associate; and Joerg Luedicke, PhD (ABD), Biostatistician.

Weight-Based Bullying May Lead Young Adults to Potentially Harmful Coping Strategies

Adolescents who experience weight-based bullying in school often cope with these experiences in ways that may be harmful for their emotional and physical well-being, according to a study by the Rudd Center recently published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Researchers asked high school students (grades 9-12) about their experiences of weight-based teasing and bullying at school, how they felt after these experiences, and the strategies they used to cope with their victimization. Findings showed that 40-50 percent of adolescents who were victimized because of their weight felt sad and depressed, worse about themselves, bad about their body, and angry; some even felt afraid.

The more that boys and girls reported negative feelings resulting from weight-based bullying, the more they also reported coping with these experiences by avoiding gym class, consuming more food, and binge eating.

The authors suggest that increased support for adolescents who experience weight-based bullying is needed to help students learn healthier adaptive responses.

The paper was coauthored by the Rudd Center's Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives; and Joerg Luedicke, PhD (ABD), Biostatistician.

President Obama Urged to Protect Children from Junk-Food Marketing

Food advocates across the country are asking the President to act now to protect children from junk-food marketing. The country’s leading researchers and advocates for healthy eating, coordinated by the Prevention Institute, unveiled “We’re Not Buying It,” a video highlighting deceptive marketing to children and launched a campaign urging the President to stand up for children’s health.

The Interagency Working Group on Foods Marketed to Children (IWG) proposed reasonable, science-based nutrition guidelines to help provide a model for companies that market to kids. However, the food industry and media companies are working to get Congress and the Administration to stop the IWG from finalizing these sensible recommendations. The campaign calls on the President to join parents, doctors, and public health practitioners in standing up for children’s health by supporting the voluntary guidelines.

Rudd Center Spotlight:  Lainie Rutkow, JD, PhD, MPH

RutkowLainie Rutkow, JD, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Assistant Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Law and the Public’s Health, will present Can the Food Industry Legally Choose to Do No Harm? during the Rudd Center’s Fall Seminar Series on October 12.

Dr. Rutkow is a public-health lawyer focusing on the use of law as a tool to protect and promote the public’s health in such areas as food and obesity policy, the regulation of industries, emergency preparedness, and injury prevention. She has published numerous articles about these topics and related issues.

She earned her BA from Yale University, JD from New York University School of Law, and MPH and PhD in health policy from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

She has served as a Fellow with the Committee on Government Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives and has worked with the Legal Aid Society of New York’s Health Law Unit and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Food for Thought: Food Day on October 24

The first national Food Day, sponsored by Center for Science in the Public Interest, will take place on Monday, October 24. On Food Day, Americans will push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable and humane way. Thousands of events are expected to be organized to celebrate healthy and delicious eating and to solve local communities’ food problems.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) are the Honorary Co-Chairs for Food Day 2011. The campaign is backed by an advisory board comprised of anti-hunger advocates, physicians, authors, politicians, public-health experts, animal-rights advocates, and other leaders.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Tamara R. Piety, JD, LLM
Associate Dean of Faculty Development and Professor of Law, University of Tulsa College of Law

The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U and through an RSS feed.

Front Burner News

McDonald’s Displays Calories on Menus in the U.K.


More than 1,000 McDonald's restaurants in the United Kingdom will begin displaying calorie counts for their food and drink items on menu boards as part of a government-led program to fight obesity and promote healthy eating. Read more.

Attacking the Obesity Epidemic by Determining its Cause

Many environmental forces, from economic interests of the food and beverage industries to the way cities and towns are designed, have had an effect on the obesity epidemic. Read more.

Corn Sugar?

The Food and Drug Administration is asking the corn industry to stop using the term "corn sugar" to describe high-fructose corn syrup until it receives regulatory approval. Read more.

Taking Back the “Value Meal”

Slow Food USA urged followers to take part in its $5 Challenge Day of Action on September 17 to take back the “value meal” by preparing a slow food meal that costs less than $5 per person. Read more.

HealthierUS School Challenge

Three Pennsylvania school districts have been recognized by the USDA for their dedication to serving healthy school lunches and encouraging students to engage in physical activity. The schools participated in the HealthierUS School Challenge, a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. Read more.

Industry’s Involvement at U.N. Summit

The food industry was invited to take part in the United Nations General Assembly session on non-communicable diseases. However, some health advocates argued that the industry is in conflict with the goals of the summit. Read more.

Michigan Tracks Childhood Obesity

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced that he will ask doctors to report body mass index of children under age 18 to a government registry in an effort to combat childhood obesity. Read more.

Man Claims Dismissal Is Weight Discrimination

A man has filed a law suit against his former employer for weight discrimination. Despite positive reviews, the man was fired from his job two weeks after requesting a seat-belt extender for the fork lift he was operating. Read more.

Food, Fitness, and Addiction

From causes to effects on brain chemistry, compulsive eating and exercise share similarities with drug and alcohol dependence. Read more.

CDC Takes Steps to Combat Childhood Obesity

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a new research project that will address childhood obesity by focusing on doctors, communities, and families to help children make healthy choices. Read more.

School Cafeterias versus Food Trucks

As school lunch offerings in cafeterias become more nutritious, students flock to food trucks that sell sweet and salty snacks near school grounds. Read more.


Coca-Cola Protests Soda Tax in France

Coca-Cola has suspended a planned $24 million investment in France to protest a French government plan to impose a new tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
Read more.

Report on Soda Industry

The National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity, a project of Public Health Law & Policy, released a report, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, that examines the soft-drink industry and its marketing practices. Read more.

Strict Policies Needed to Reduce Obesity

Policymakers say aggressive action, such as taxing sugar-sweetened beverages, is needed to curb the growth of the obesity epidemic in the United States. Read more.


Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?

The “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food is incorrect. Despite extensive government subsidies, highly processed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. Read more.

Reviving Home Economics Class


Reviving the original ideas behind home economics class – that producing nutritious food is profoundly important, takes study and practice, and can and should be taught through the public school system – could help in the fight against obesity and chronic disease. Read more.

Lobbyists Work to Dismantle New School Nutrition Law

Lobbyists for dairy and produce groups are working hard to dismantle the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The act increases school meal eligibility for low-income children, encourages local farm-to-school networks and school gardens, expands access to free drinking water in schools, and gives the USDA the right to set food standards for school meals. Read more.

Chocolate Milk: Does a Body Bad

Every half-pint carton of non-fat flavored milk adds about eight grams of extra sugar to a child’s diet. With flavored milk accounting for 75 percent of all milk offered to children in school, it is possible that a child will gain five extra pounds during the school year due to flavored milk alone. Read more.

Big Soda and Public Health Campaigns

If the tobacco industry offered to voluntarily fund anti-smoking programs, the arrangement would be questioned. While soda companies may not be regarded in the same light as tobacco companies, soda is a major public health problem, and depending on its makers to solve the problem through campaigns and funding is ill-advised. Read more.


Food Marketing Guidelines Do Not Violate First Amendment

Nearly 40 legal scholars submitted letters to federal agencies and the White House disputing the industry’s claims that the federal government’s new nutrition recommendations for food and beverage marketing to children violate the first amendment. Read more.

Food Marketing Guidelines Aggressively Lobbied

The federal government's proposed food marketing guidelines to children led to an aggressive lobbying campaign to modify the regulations or stop them altogether. The efforts to rally Congress and put pressure on the federal government, particularly by the House GOP, may be paying off, reports the Hill. Read more.