Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
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Recent Alerts

Healthier Versions of Lunchables are Outnumbered and Out of Reach

July 16, 2014

When Kraft Foods joined the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) in 2006, it committed to advertise only healthier dietary choices, including some varieties of Lunchables, directly to children. 

However, a recent report by the Rudd Center examined the nutritional quality and marketing of Kraft Lunchables and found that just five out of 42 varieties meet CFBAI’s nutrition standards for advertising to children. In the supermarket, less nutritious versions of Lunchables outnumber the healthier ones by six to one, and the healthier varieties are most likely to be stocked on the top shelf, above eye level for both children and adults.

In response to the report’s findings, the Rudd Center and the Food Marketing Workgroup today sent a letter to Kraft asking the company to:

• Adopt a comprehensive policy on brand advertising and marketing;

• Update Kraft’s food marketing policy to cover in-store and on-package marketing; and

• Extend Kraft’s marketing policy to cover children ages 12 to 14.

Brand marketing, in-store and on-package marketing, and the exclusion of children ages 12 to 14 as part of company marketing policies are key weaknesses of self-regulation that the Food Marketing Workgroup has been pushing to strengthen.

In addition to sending a letter to Kraft, the Food Marketing Workgroup launched a social media campaign urging followers to share information on how Kraft baits parents by advertising a few healthy brands on TV, then hides those on store shelves among 37 unhealthy varieties containing cookies, sugary drinks and fruit snacks.

Howard County School Wellness Policy Gets Top National Ranking

July 10, 2014

Howard County’s school wellness policy ranked among the best in the nation, according to the Rudd Center’s Wellness School Assessment Tool (WellSAT).  The WellSAT assesses the comprehensiveness and strength of school districts’ local wellness policies in nutrition education and promotion, physical activity/physical education, school meals, and competitive foods.

The wellness policy, created by the Howard County Board of Education, was awarded an overall grade of "A" and earned a "B" for effectiveness of enforcement. The policy scored highest for its school meal plans and programs, its vending machine offerings and its evaluation measures, which all earned a perfect 100 percent overall.  Physical education and activity earned an 86 on the comprehensive score and 57 for enforcement.

"The Howard County school wellness policy is one of the very best that I've ever seen,” said Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center’s Director. “The nutrition sections in particular will serve as a model for other districts around the country."

The policy, which aims to promote the health of Howard County’s nearly 52,000 students, was assessed for the Horizon Foundation, a Howard County philanthropy focused on public health.

New York Court of Appeals Fails to Reinstate Sugary Drink Size Limit

June 26, 2014

The New York Court of Appeals has ruled that New York City’s health department “exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority” when it adopted the Sugary Drink Portion Cap Rule, an initiative aimed to limit the sales of soda and other “sugary drinks” in sizes larger than 16 ounces.

"The research is clear: sugary drinks lead to diabetes, and skyrocketing rates of diabetes are going to bankrupt our healthcare system,” according to Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center Director.  “The government and private industry must continue to do everything possible to educate the public and decrease consumption of these harmful beverages.  This decision is disappointing, but those of us who care about the public’s health will continue our efforts to help people stop drinking so much sugar."

“Today’s ruling does not change the fact that sugary drink consumption is a key driver of the obesity epidemic, and we will continue to look for ways to stem the twin epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes by seeking to limit the pernicious effects of aggressive and predatory marketing of sugary drinks and unhealthy foods,” said Health Commissioner Mary T. Basset, MD, MPH in a statement.

The CDC reports 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 documents that these beverages are the greatest source of added sugars in the American diet and the number one source of calories in teens' diets.

CDC Report Finds Decrease in Soda Consumption Among Youth

June 20, 2014

Soda consumption among youth decreased from 2007 to 2013, according to results from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report monitors a number of categories of health-risk behaviors among youth and young adults, including alcohol and drug use, sexual behavior, diet and physical activity.

The 86-question survey was administered to over 13,000 students from a variety of backgrounds (large urban public school districts, private schools, small schools, etc.) to produce a nationally representative sample.

“This is good news,” said Rudd Center Director, Marlene Schwartz, PhD. “It indicates that we are heading in the right direction. The fact that older kids drank less than younger kids may indicate that as students get older and hear the messages about the dangers of soda, they are more likely to change their behaviors.”

Report Documents Copycat Snacks in Schools

June 12, 2014

All foods sold outside of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), such as food from vending machines and school stores, will have to meet United States Department of Agriculture “Smart Snacks” nutrition criteria starting July 1, 2014. “Smart Snacks,” which is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, will limit the calories, fat, sugar, and sodium of these foods.

According to a recent report by the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI), major food companies like PepsiCo are producing reformulated versions of popular junk foods like Cheetos® and Doritos® that meet the Smart Snacks criteria, but use the same brand names, logos and spokescharacters as those used to market traditional junk food.

The authors assert that these copycat snacks are not widely available for purchase outside of schools and are clearly designed to co-market traditional junk food to children in school.

In a recent video and article in The New York Times, Michael Moss describes how food companies are trying to stay ahead of USDA’s rules when it comes to marketing junk food in schools.  “Companies like Domino’s are making more healthful versions of their food to sell in schools, prompting concerns about the use of brands in the school lunch line,” according to Moss.

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