New York City Proposes Ban on Large Sugary Drinks
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently proposed a citywide ban on sweetened beverages over 16 ounces, according to CBS News. Under the proposal consumers would no longer be able to purchase sugary drinks over 16 ounces from restaurants, movie theaters, and sports venues, among other establishments.
The CDC recently reported that the average soda is six times larger today than it was in the 1950s, and that Americans are on average 26 pounds heavier than they were in the ‘50s. The Rudd Center's Sugary Drink FACTS report notes consumption data of sugary drinks, including that they are the greatest source of added sugars in the American diet and the number one source of calories in teens' diets.
The proposed ban is meant to address rising obesity rates in New York City and is open for a three-month public comment period before a vote by the city's Board of Health.
The move by Mayor Bloomberg may have far-reaching consequences, as other cities have used New York as a model for similar bans on trans fats and smoking in public areas. "The portion size initiative is another example of strong leadership," said Kelly Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, in The Atlantic.
Diet sodas, dairy-based drinks, alcoholic beverages, and drinks with fewer than 25 calories per 8-ounce serving would not be affected by the ban.
Disney to Reduce Food Marketing to Children
Disney recently announced that food advertised to children on its many media platforms will have to meet healthier standards. The new guidelines, set to go into effect by 2015, are designed to promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables and reduce the intake of sodium, sugar, and saturated fat.
"This is a significant advance by Disney," said Kelly Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, in an interview with USA Today. "With their reach and credibility, the tight nutrition standards they have set for specially designated foods will touch millions of children."
The most common food advertisements viewed by children in 2011 were for fast-food restaurants, cereals, casual sit-down restaurants, and candy, according to a recent Rudd Report. The new standards would prohibit many of these types of food advertisements from being used on Disney-owned networks.
Rudd Report Responds to Recent Trends in Food Advertising to Youth
A recently released Rudd Report, “Trends in Television Food Advertising to Young People: 2011 Update,” documents a 5 percent decline in total food and beverage advertising seen by children in 2011 compared with 2010. Adolescent exposure remained the same. While exposure is down, children continue to view approximately 13 ads per day that almost exclusively promote unhealthy foods.
Rudd Center researchers examined children’s exposure to food advertising on all television programming and found slight improvements, while also documenting troublesome trends.
The average 2-to-11 year old saw 12.8 food and beverage ads per day in 2011 compared with 13.4 ads in 2010. While the reduction in 2011 somewhat reverses the upward trend in 2010, it still exceeds children’s average annual ad exposure from 2006 to 2009.
Adolescents viewed 16.2 food and beverage ads per day in 2011 and 2010. Although 2011 was the first year since 2007 that the rate did not increase, adolescents viewed 27 percent more ads in 2011 than in 2007.
Advertising for the least nutritious categories of food, including fast food, cereal, carbonated beverages, and juice, fruit drinks, and sports drinks, declined in 2011, but youth exposure to candy advertising from 2009 to 2011 increased by 55 to 70 percent.
This analysis reveals a mixed impact of the Better Business Bureau’s Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), a self-regulatory program working to reduce ads aimed at children. Compared with 2004, the year with the highest child exposure to food ads in the analysis, children now view 8 percent fewer food and beverage ads overall. However, compared with 2007, the year prior to the implementation of the CFBAI, children are now viewing 5 percent more food and beverage ads in total.
Just Published by the Rudd Center
Strong Wellness Policies Improve Connecticut School Environments
Strong written school wellness policies lead to healthier food and more physical activity in schools, according to a study just published by the Rudd Center. The study, published in the Journal of School Health, found that districts with strong and clearly written school wellness policies are more likely to implement better nutrition education, higher nutrition standards for school meals and other food at school, and more opportunities for physical activity.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires that all school districts inform and update the public about the content and implementation of their local wellness policies during the 2011-2012 school year.
Rudd Center researchers collaborated with the Connecticut State Department of Education to collect and analyze the written wellness policies from 151 Connecticut school districts, and compared them to school principal reports of how well nutrition and physical activity policies were being implemented in their schools.
Statewide, school nutrition and physical activity practices improved in the first year of school wellness policy implementation. The districts that had stronger, more comprehensive policies were more successful in implementation than those with weaker policies.
The researchers found that urban districts with higher rates of free and reduced-price lunch eligibility developed significantly stronger written policies than other districts. Researchers asserted that urban districts may have taken the task more seriously due to concerns over elevated rates of obesity and other health issues among their students.
The paper was coauthored by the Rudd Center’s Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director, Kathryn Henderson, PhD, Director of School and Community Initiatives, Meghan O’Connell, MPH, Research Associate, and Sarah Novak, PhD, former Rudd Center Research Associate; Jennifer Falbe, MPH, and Michael Long, MPH, Harvard School of Public Health; Christopher Wharton, PhD, ASU School of Nutrition & Health Promotion; and Susan Fiore, MS, RD, Connecticut State Department of Education.
Government Intervention in Unhealthy Food Marketing
The government can play a role in addressing the toxic food retail environment based on its interests in advancing public health, protecting children from manipulation and commercial exploitation, and supporting parents’ role in child-rearing, according to a paper published by the Rudd Center in the Indiana Health Law Review.
The paper, authored by Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH, Rudd Center Director of Legal Initiatives, describes two viable methods, based on the best scientific evidence and within the constraints of the First Amendment, to address this environment.
“The government can argue that the use of characters on unhealthy food is deceptive and misleading as directed at children and thus not protected under the First Amendment,” according to Pomeranz. She continued that “in the absence of federal regulation, state and local governments could regulate the location of such products within retail establishments that do not meet certain nutrition profiles or regulate the location of the same unhealthy products that also bear characters on the packaging.”
National Food Policy Programs Improve Access to Healthy Foods
Access to healthy food in underserved communities has improved significantly after changes in federal nutrition and food assistance programs, according to a study just published by the Rudd Center in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The study shows that the revisions in food packages for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) have increased the availability and variety of healthy foods in WIC-authorized, as well as non-WIC, convenience and grocery stores.
The WIC program is designed to help meet the needs of pregnant women and mothers of infants and young children who are at nutritional risk. The program’s food packages were revised in 2009 to offer foods that better reflect dietary recommendations for Americans. Researchers looked at inventories of 252 convenience stores and non-chain grocery stores in Connecticut to assess the variety, quality, and prices of WIC-approved foods before and after the new WIC food package implementation.
They found that within six to eight months of the WIC revisions, the provision of healthy foods, such as whole-grain products and produce, improved significantly in convenience and grocery stores participating in the WIC program. Non-WIC convenience and grocery stores, especially in low-income neighborhoods, also showed some improvement.
The researchers asserted that the WIC food package revisions have improved access to healthy foods not only for WIC participants but for communities at large.
The paper was coauthored by the Rudd Center’s Tatiana Andreyeva, PhD, Director of Economic Initiatives, Joerg Luedicke, MS, Biostatistician, Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director, and Ann Middleton, MPH, former Research Associate; and Michael Long, MPH, Harvard School of Public Health.
Revising Sugar Labeling Requirements to Inform and Protect Consumers
Putting more information about sugar on food packages is necessary, achievable, and overdue, according to a recent Rudd Center paper published in the American Journal of Public Health. Author Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH, Director of Legal Initiatives, cited evidence showing that consumers have little guidance to help them make informed choices about added sugar.
Pomeranz noted that the Food and Drug Administration’s sugar labeling regulations are outdated and need to be reanalyzed given several important developments. These include strong recommendations by the United States Department of Agriculture and the American Heart Association to limit added sugar consumption, robust science indicating that high intake of added sugar has a negative impact on health and overall diet quality, and the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that the FDA consider added sugar in a front-of-package labeling system.
Pomeranz argued that the FDA’s previous reluctance requiring manufacturers to disclose sugar and added sugar on their products’ packaging is based on outdated science and obsolete concerns. Regulations on food allergens and tobacco labeling have been successfully enacted amid these same concerns. Further, added sugar detection has a rich scientific history that is evolving to enable the FDA to test sugar-related claims on packaging. There should also be a disqualifying level of added sugar in products for manufacturers to be able to make health claims. Currently, many products high in added sugar have cartoon characters on the packaging to entice children, and health claims to appease parents.
Increased labeling requirements can also lead to innovation and would likely encourage positive reformulation due to increased competition among companies trying to create and market products with less added sugar.
“The American Heart Association, the USDA, and the World Health Organization have issued strong standards that can guide the government. There are no longer any viable reasons to maintain outdated nutrition labeling standards for sugar,” stated Pomeranz.
Rudd Center Spotlight: William H. Dietz, MD, PhD
William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, Director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented Adventures in Food Marketing to Children during the Rudd Center’s Spring Seminar Series.
Prior to his appointment at the CDC, Dr. Dietz was a Professor of Pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine, and Director of Clinical Nutrition at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.
He is the author of over 200 publications in scientific literature; editor of five books including Clinical Obesity in Adults and Children and Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know; a member of the Institute of Medicine; and recipient of several awards for his contribution to the field of children and media and for outstanding research in nutrition.
HBO Raises Awareness of the Stigma of Obesity
HBO’s recently released documentary series The Weight of the Nation addresses the complex causes of and solutions to obesity. Along with four main films, HBO produced ten short films, including Stigma: The Human Cost of Obesity, which features the Rudd Center’s Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives.
The devastating and damaging experience of being stigmatized and discriminated against because of one’s obesity is rarely on the radar, according to a recent blog by Dr. Puhl on Medscape. HBO gives voice to these individuals, who recount their frequent experiences of weight bias in all aspects of society, and who are ostracized and treated unfairly by employers, health care providers, strangers, and even family members.
The blog is the latest in a series about weight bias by Dr. Puhl on Medscape, a part of WebMD Health Professional Network (free online registration required).
Best and Worst Marketing Practice
Best: Birds Eye Markets Vegetables
Worst: Baby Ruth Candy Bar Touts Protein
Employment Opportunity at the Rudd Center
Provide a high level of assistance to the Director of Marketing Initiatives. Duties include, but are not limited to, data collection (administering surveys, questionnaires, TV and internet ads); conducting structured interviews on food policy, food marketing, nutrition, and obesity; data entry; and analysis.
As the summer approaches, many state legislatures are wrapping up their sessions. The Rudd Center’s Legislation Database tracks bills that address obesity and food policy. Users can search for bills according to topic or by state, track legislative trends, and generate reports of bills filed, passed, and failed.
Bills to Watch: North Carolina’s House Bill 1003 and its companion, Senate Bill 842, would prohibit school districts from charging “indirect costs” (e.g. the costs of custodians to clean the cafeteria and utilities to run it) to a school lunch program unless it is financially solvent. This legislation would protect struggling school meals programs from the additional burden of reimbursing their school districts for these services and could provide a model for use in other states.
Good News: Connecticut and Mississippi passed bills that will have a positive impact on the health of school children. CT SB 458 will require 20 minutes of daily physical exercise for grades kindergarten through fifth. MS SB 2752 establishes a Coordinated School Health pilot program that would bring together school administrators, teachers, other staff, students, families, and community members to assess health needs, set priorities, and plan, implement, and evaluate school health activities.
Bad News: Alabama passed HB 242, which prohibits lawsuits based on claims arising out of weight gain, obesity, or a health condition associated with weight gain or obesity. The bill gives little recourse for consumers to hold food manufacturers accountable for serving and promoting unhealthy products. Twenty-four other states have passed similar legislation.
The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts
Jeannette R. Ickovics, PhD, Director, CARE: Community Alliance for Research & Engagement, Yale University
Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director, Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity
Big Food: Health, Culture and the Evolution of Eating