Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Nov 25 2014

At long last menu labeling, and worth the wait!

The FDA released its long-awaited regulations on menu labeling at 12:01 this morning.

The big and most welcome news: the regulations apply across the board to

  • Meals from sit‐down restaurants
  • Foods purchased at drive‐through windows
  • Take‐out food, such as pizza
  • Foods, such as made‐to‐order sandwiches, ordered from a menu or menu board at a grocery store or delicatessen
  • Foods you serve yourself from a salad or hot food bar
  • Muffins at a bakery or coffee shop
  • Popcorn purchased at a movie theater or amusement park
  • A scoop of ice cream, milk shake or sundae from an ice cream store
  • Hot dogs or frozen drinks prepared on site in a convenience or warehouse store
  • Certain alcoholic beverages

The only exceptions: foods from grocery stores or delis that require additional preparation such as deli meats, cheeses, or large deli salads.

Why is this big news?  As I’ve written previously in this space,

  • It’s been more than 4 years since Congress called for menu labels (in the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama in 2010)
  • When the FDA first proposed the regs in April 2011, it excluded movie theaters and other places whose primary purpose is not to sell food.
  • It also excluded alcoholic beverages (these are regulated by the Treasury Department)
  • The pizza lobby (yes, there is such a thing–remember “pizza is a vegetable” in school lunches?) fought to be excluded.
  • The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other retailers fought for exclusion.
  • Rumors were that the White House wanted weaker regulations.

Well here they are.

As for the response:

Center for Science in the Interest (CSPI), which has led the menu labeling efforts, is understandably pleased.  Congratulations!

The National Restaurant Association has pressed for national regulations to make the rules consistent across the country.  It says:

We joined forces with more than 70 public health and stakeholder groups to advocate for a federal nutrition standard so that anyone dining out can have clear, easy-to-use nutrition information at the point of ordering – information that is presented in the same way, no matter what part of the country. From Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, diners in restaurants will have a new tool to help them make choices that are right for them.

The New York Times reports that the The National Grocers Association said: “We are disappointed that the F.D.A.’s final rules will capture grocery stores, and impose such a large and costly regulatory burden on our members”

Really?  Lots of people eat at grocery stores these days (think: Whole Foods).

The Washington Post reports that the Food Marketing Institute is also disappointed.

I’m not.  Calorie labeling is an excellent tool for public education.

The regs won’t go into effect for another year or two.

Watch the lobbying begin!

In the meantime, congratulations to the FDA for putting public health first.

 

 

 

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/calorie-counts-coming-to-a-restaurant-movie-theater-vending-machine-near-you/2014/11/24/e5bd25ae-7415-11e4-a5b2-e1217af6b33d_story.html

 

Nov 24 2014

NutraIngredients on Functional Foods

NutraIngredients-USA has a special edition on functional foods, those that have something supposedly healthy—vitamins, probiotics, antioxidants, omega-3s, etc—added above and beyond the nutrients naturally present.

I think functional foods are about marketing, not health, but that’s why food companies love them.

From the industry’s perspective, “getting nutritional ingredients into foods requires tackling regulatory hurdles, but food offers a mass market that dwarfs anything possible with supplements.

Here are some of NutrIngredients’ latest developments:

Collagen peptides: Functional Ingredients for a booming market: Functional ingredients are now more visible to the consumer than ever, with people becoming more aware of the benefits they can offer. Among all these ingredients, collagen peptides are increasingly recognized as a highly effective ingredient solution for manufacturers targeting the skin beauty and healthy aging market segments….

Pill fatigue is driving innovation in space between functional foods and supplements, experts say:  Is pill fatigue just a marketing ploy? No, say many experts in the field.  It’s a real phenomenon and it’s driving both dosage form innovation and the movement of bioactives into functional foods…

Functional Foods: The end of the processed foods era?  To understand Functional Foods you must see it as a strategy to add value to processed foods, says the president and founder of the HealthyMarketingTeam, Peter Wennstrom, in this guest article…

Phood booed: Why big pharma fails at functional food:  Faced with mounting difficulties in their drug businesses, many pharmaceutical manufacturers are looking at getting into functional foods and beverages, notes food marketing expert, Julian Mellentin in this guest article…

What’s driving functional food and beverage growth? Snacking, convenience, and consumer behavior:  With sales of $176.7 billion this year functional foods are a hot growth sector. But which ingredients, sectors and countries are the best bets for product launches?

‘The trick is to come up with something that actually works': The elephant in the weight management room:  Two years on from revised European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) guidelines on weight management, the industry is still struggling to produce sufficient evidence to back claims. ..

Lemon myrtle: Aboriginal functional favourite revived by Sydney Games:  An indigenous Australian tree plant, used for tens of thousands of years by Aborigines before being forgotten after the arrival of Europeans Down Under, has the Sydney Olympics to thank for its remarkable comeback as a functional food in teas, chocolate, pasta and more…

Raisio brings cholesterol-lowering Benecol home for €90m>  “J&J should have sold it 10 years ago,” is one analyst’s appraisal of Finnish agro-food giant Raisio’s buy-back of the licensing rights to its cholesterol lowering, plant stanol-based Benecol brand today, referring to US market difficulties for the European sector leader…

Nov 21 2014

Weekend reading: a fresh take on the soda industry

Bartow J. Elmore.  Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism.  Norton, 2015.

 

Elmore is an historian at the University of Alabama, whose book takes a fresh look at how soda companies managed to make fortunes selling cheap sugar water.   Advertising, he says, is only a minor factor in generating soda profits.

The real profits came from a business strategy that offloads the costs and risks onto suppliers, bottlers, and taxpayers.  Soda companies depend on taxpayers for the cost of city water supplies, the recycling discarded cans and bottles, the cleanup of containers that are not recycled, the transportation of sodas to the military,  and the health care of overweight consumers.

The public, he says, should be setting and collecting the price for use of public resources, rather than “accepting the bill for corporate waste.”

 

Nov 20 2014

What Dan Glickman is doing these days: bipartisanship

Dan Glickman, former USDA Secretary (1995-2001) has been turning up in my mailbox newsletters a lot lately.  Here’s a small collection.

On making the connection between agriculture and health

The food, agriculture, health, hunger and nutrition sectors need to create new ways of working together that harness their shared commitment to improving health through food and nutrition. And we need government and industry to work together in a way that transcends typical political and business interests….The food industry can do more to reinforce healthy diets through marketing, incentives and other strategies, including product formulation, placement, packaging, and portion sizes. And government needs to amplify its existing efforts to ensure consistent and affirming nutrition and health messages for consumers.

On the need for bipartisan approaches

While a healthy, civil debate among those with differing viewpoints is an essential component of our democracy, the current partisan tone in government is impeding progress. Through the Democracy Project and events like Bridge-Builder Breakfasts, political summits and timely policy discussions, BPC [Bipartisan Policy Center ] is fostering an ongoing conversation about how to overcome political divides and help make our government work better.

He is a co-chair of AGree–Transforming Food and Agriculture

AGree seeks to drive positive change in the food and agriculture system by connecting and challenging leaders from diverse communities to catalyze action and elevate food and agriculture as a national priority.  [Here is what AGree agrees on]

And here he is on the implications of the midterm elections’ for the “rural-urban divide:” 

Notwithstanding the very strong farm and agricultural economy the past few years, the Democratic Party and its leadership are having a great deal of trouble connecting with farmers and rural citizens and small-town America…a sustained effort at the highest political level by Democrats to connect with rural issues and concerns is necessary if they want to broaden their popularity and build bigger and more successful electoral coalitions and succeed in this country’s many rural congressional districts.

…It is no secret that casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan were borne by a disproportionate number of young men and women from these areas. The economic recession has also hit rural America very hard and many towns have not seen much impact on their lives from the rebounding American economy.

The White House and Democratic Party gurus need to recognize that they are failing to connect with rural America….The future of American leadership on nutrition, farming and hunger is in jeopardy without positive action to rebuild and maintain these bipartisan coalitions.

In his post USDA years, Glickman has become a strong spokesman for bipartisanship and bipartisan decisions about how to link agricultural policy to health policy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if he succeeds?

Nov 19 2014

Progress on ending soda industry marketing to kids? Not much.

The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity has just released its 2014 Sugary Drink FACTS report.

Screenshot 2014-11-19 17.37.49

Some of the findings:

  • Beverage companies spent $866 million to advertise unhealthy drinks in 2013, and increase since the previous year.
  • Children and teens remain key target audiences for that advertising.
  • Much marketing is done through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and advergame apps.
  • Pepsi spent $16 million on Spanish TV advertising in 2013, up from none in 2010.
  • Dr Pepper Snapple spent $20 million (up from $7 million in 2010) to support its regular sodas.
  • African-American teens watch more than three times as many ads for Coca-Cola as do white kids.

Useful Rudd Center resources:

Nov 17 2014

Brazilian dietary guidelines are based on foods, food patterns, and meals, not nutrients

Brazil has just released the final version of its Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian population in English as well as in Portuguese (I wrote about the draft version in an earlier post).

Screenshot 2014-11-16 20.47.15 - Copy (2)

As explained in the press release (also in English), the guidelines include ten steps to health diets

  1. Make natural or minimally processed foods the basis of your diet
  2. Use oils, fats, salt, and sugar in small amounts when seasoning and cooking natural or minimally processed foods and to create culinary preparations
  3. Limit consumption of processed foods
  4. Avoid consumption of ultra-processed products
  5. Eat regularly and carefully in appropriate environments and, whenever possible, in company
  6. Shop in places that offer a variety of natural or minimally processed foods
  7. Develop, exercise and share culinary skills
  8. Plan your time to make food and eating important in your life
  9. Out of home, prefer places that serve freshly made meals
  10. Be wary of food advertising and marketing

Traditionally, families based their diets on natural and minimally processed foods.  The guidelines are based on the actual, traditional dietary patterns of a substantial proportion of the Brazilian population of all ages and classes throughout the country.

Carlos Monteiro, the Brazilian nutrition professor listed as the technical formulator of the guidelines, was in Washington DC last week to speak at a conference on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.   Monteiro’s speech is here.  Tweets sent during the meeting are here.

I hope everybody listened.

Nov 14 2014

Weekend reading: food history!

Paul Freedman, Joyce E. Chaplin, and Ken Albala.  Food in Time and Place: The American Historical Association Companion to Food History.  University of California Press, 2014.

I was happy to be asked to do a blurb for this one:

This book is a treasure.  Its clear and lively chapters on global food history instantly explain why food has become an essential entry point into the most intellectually challenging problems of our time.  Any reader interested in the role of food in history, culture, or politics, its production or consumption, or the teaching of critical thinking will find this book hard to put down. 

Nov 13 2014

White House delays even more food rules

This morning’s Politico Pro Morning Agriculture says that FDA menu labeling (see Monday’s Post) is not the only food rule being held up by the White House.

The issue: The White House is supposed to sign off or reply within 90 days, or formally request an extension.  That’s not happening with menu calorie labeling or four others:

  • The Common or Usual Name for Raw Meat and Poultry rule: this refers to what you can call meat and poultry with added water, salt or other ingredients.  The White House has been sitting on rule for review since April 30.   Chicken producers love it.  Some meat producers don’t.  Here’s the initial proposal.  It’s not clear whether or how it’s been altered.
  • Child Nutrition Program Integrity and Child and Adult Care Food Program proposals: these rules, also sent in April, deal with USDA’s implementation of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act. The integrity rule deals with mismanagement.  The other one requires USDA to update the meals to comply with dietary guidelines every 10 years.
  •  USDA’s catfish inspection rule: Sent to the White House on May 30, this would implement a section of the 2014 farm bill that puts USDA, not FDA, in charge of catfish inspections (see previous post on this).
  • EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014: This was sent August 22.  The White House has not extended the review period.  f the administration does take more time to officially complete its review, it could push the release of the rule governing how much ethanol needs to be mixed into gasoline for 2014 into 2015.

What’s going on?  Politics, of course.  But I can only speculate on what they might be.

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