by Marion Nestle
Sep 2 2012

Regulations do change eating behavior

My monthly, first Sunday column in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Q: I still don’t get it. Why would a city government think that a food regulation would promote health when any one of them is so easy to evade?

A: Quick answer: because they work.

As I explained in my July discussion of Richmond’s proposed soda tax, regulations make it easier for people to eat healthfully without having to think about it. They make the default choice the healthy choice. Most people choose the default, no matter what it is.

Telling people cigarettes cause cancer hardly ever got anyone to stop. But regulations did. Taxing cigarettes, banning advertising, setting age limits for purchases, and restricting smoking in airplanes, workplaces, bars and restaurants made it easier for smokers to stop.

Economists say, obesity and its consequences cost our society $190 billion annually in health care and lost productivity, so health officials increasingly want to find equally effective strategies to discourage people from over-consuming sugary drinks and fast food.

Research backs up regulatory approaches. We know what makes us overeat: billions of dollars in advertising messages, food sold everywhere – in gas stations, vending machines, libraries and stores that sell clothing, books, office supplies, cosmetics and drugs – and huge portions of food at bargain prices.

Research also shows what sells food to kids: cartoons, celebrities, commercials on their favorite television programs, and toys in Happy Meals. This kind of marketing induces kids to want the products, pester their parents for them, and throw tantrums if parents say no. Marketing makes kids think they are supposed to eat advertised foods, and so undermines parental authority.

Public health officials look for ways to intervene, given their particular legislated mandates and authority. But much as they might like to, they can’t do much about marketing to children. Food and beverage companies invoke the First Amendment to protect their “right” to market junk foods to kids. They lobby Congress on this issue so effectively that they even managed to block the Federal Trade Commission‘s proposed nonbinding, voluntary nutrition standards for marketing food to kids.

Short of marketing restrictions, city officials are trying other options. They pass laws to require menu labeling for fast food, ban trans fats, prohibit toys in fast-food kids’ meals and restrict junk foods sold in schools. They propose taxes on sodas and caps on soda sizes.

Research demonstrating the value of regulatory approaches is now pouring in.

Studies of the effects of menu labeling show that not everyone pays attention, but those who do are more likely to reduce their calorie purchases. Menu labels certainly change my behavior. Do I really want a 600-calorie breakfast muffin? Not today, thanks.

New York City’s 2008 ban on use of hydrogenated oils containing trans fats means that New Yorkers get less trans fat with their fast food, even in low-income neighborhoods. Whether this reduction accounts for the recent decline in the city’s rates of heart disease remains to be demonstrated, but getting rid of trans fats certainly hasn’t hurt.

Canadian researchers report that kids are three times more likely to choose healthier meals if those meals come with a toy and the regular ones do not. When it comes to kids’ food choices, the meal with the toy is invariably the default.

A recent study in Pediatrics compared obesity rates in kids living in states with and without restrictions on the kinds of foods sold in schools. Guess what – the kids living in states where schools don’t sell junk food are not as overweight.

Circulation has just published an American Heart Association review of “evidence-based population approaches” to improving diets. It concludes that evidence supports the value of intense media campaigns, on-site educational programs in stores, subsidies for fruits and vegetables, taxes, school gardens, worksite wellness programs and restrictions on marketing to children.

The benefits of the approaches shown in these studies may appear small, but together they offer hope that current trends can be reversed.

Researchers also suggest other approaches, not yet tried. The Yale Rudd Center has just shown that color-coded food labels (“traffic lights”) encourage healthier food choices.

And Rand Corp. researchers propose initiatives like those that worked for alcoholic beverages: Limit the density of fast-food outlets, ban sales in places that are not food stores, insist that supermarkets put junk foods and sodas where they are hard to see, ban drive-through sales, restrict portion sizes and use warning labels.

These regulatory approaches are worth trying. If research continues to demonstrate their value, cities will have even more reason to use them. If the research becomes compelling enough, the federal government might need to act.

In the meantime, cities are leading the way, Richmond among them. Their initiatives are well worth trying, testing and supporting.

**Marion Nestle is the author of “Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics,” as well as “Food Politics” and “What to Eat,” among other books. She is a professor in the nutrition, food studies and public health department at New York University, and blogs at foodpolitics.com. E-mail: food@sfchronicle.com

  • http://mediterraneandiet.tv/ EdSanDiego

    Mitt Romney is for less regulation.

    How does that circle get squared with a push for more regulation around food marketing, new behavioral consumption taxes and restrictions on junk food in public sector supply chains?

    Does food regulation depend on Obama vs. Romney? Or does 50 years of history show the issues will keep being swept under the carpet?

  • http://woodsidegardens.blogspot.com Jamie Woodside

    I have to say that although I’m generally for less regulation, I made a trip to California for the first time this last spring. The calories printed on the menus were a HUGE eye opener, and I absolutely made healthier choices because of that information. I was shocked at the amount of calories in a typical restaurant meal! I think that these labels are great!

  • http://zedpilot.com/ ErikP

    It’s amazing that we’d talk about regulating/taxing certain foods when we’re simultaneously subsidize their production. Worse, policy makers have at various times been so sure of the danger of so many food types that later turned out to not be scientifically proven. There are people out there making cases against the healthiness of: sugar, butter, vegetable oil, saturated fat, any fat, low-fat, salt, wheat, soy, eggs, cheese, meat, no meat, fish, all carbs, no carbs, whatever. If our government (which still can’t quite get transparent labeling on some things) were to sit down and try to come up an expansive regulation/tax plan, the largest food industries are who would win out.

    Not vegetable/fruit farmers, for instance.

    Rather than invite that kind of lobby-fest, why not continue to concentrate on making the healthy foods everyone agrees on more accessible, and continue to lobby against subsidies that almost everyone agrees don’t help health? It’s easy to say all these things we could do with regulation and taxes, but we have to look at the actual way it would play out.

  • Kyle

    Generally, people are opposed to more regulation, because they feel like that means less freedoms, but in reality regulations on the big food industry have proven that it works. And there comes a point where state governments need to step in and say enough is enough because people’s eating habits are bankrupting our economy due to the monetary demands they require from Medicaid and Medicare. Regulations do work! We may not like them at first, but the smokers and the Big smoking industry didn’t either; but look how that faired.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    ErikP, it’s not either/or.

    As we continue to fight against subsidies for corn crops, and financial help to jump start more diverse agriculture, we can also combat the obscene amounts of marketing related to junk food, fast food, and particularly, soda.

    Fat laden, high calorie foods, such as those sold in many fast food enterprises, will never be shown to be healthy. Something like soda will never be shown to be healthy. We know these foods are too easily available, too heavily marketed–especially to younger people.

    We won’t make a difference with the over-consumption of these obesity causing unhealthy substances if all we do is go after corn subsidies.

    In war, you don’t just attack on one front. Well, this is a war.

  • http://zedpilot.com/ ErikP

    Shelly – Well….let’s hope this “war” goes better than all the other literal and figurative wars we’ve engaged in over the last 60 years. :)

    I’m really not a libertarian, and ultimately understand that society and individual rights often conflict – I’m just saying before taking those steps we have to be sure of the science, and as sure as possible of the practical, real-world path to the outcome.

    For instance, you mention fat laden foods – I made a set of dietary changes, including eating more fat, and have seen substantial, obvious and measured results. How would you regulate my fat intake? Perhaps tax restaurants selling “fast food”. Is Chipotles fast food, or just McDonalds? Is their fat different than fat from grass fed beef, or milk, or an avocado? There are a thousand dialogues like this.

    Imagine the committee gathering to sort out these kind of details in order to regulate. What would come out of it is McDonald’s being declared healthy, mustard being added to the vegetable list, and a whole bunch of rules, based on misunderstood science, that we’d be stuck with.

    There is still a lot of work to do fixing crop subsidies, increasing labeling/transparency, and doing things like making fruits/veggies more accessible to people on assistance. Why not concentrate on these clear, decisive approaches? We already have a lot of fronts on our war.

  • Scott Loubser

    When we see the pain and suffering that results from the path that the food economy has taken, war does sometimes feel like an appropriate response. However, the collateral damage which would result should the government decide to take sides in the macronutrient wars (low fat vs. low carb vs. low protein), could be regrettable. Diet diversity and choice are obviously important.

    Great first steps are focussing on labelling, subsidies, and availability of fresh fruits and veg.

    One simple way for prepared food to be regulated could be existing rules regarding labelling: prepared foods which have additives or nutrients that prolong shelf-life are required to have nutritional labelling. This could be a useful boundary, in which prepared foods that are noted to have added nutrients (salt, sugar, and fat) that require labelling under existing rules, and tend to require care in keeping the diet balanced, should also be regulated or taxed.

  • http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/bradwilson Brad Wilson

    Look at this great blog, putting a lot of factual information out there for discussion.

    But then see the comments. Eric P says we subsidize the production of junk food ingredients. Shelly reinforces that. Eric comes back again against crop subsidies. Then Scott Loubser again criticizes subsidies.

    Unfortunately, the subsidy argument is false. The problem, that junk food ingredients are cheapened by the farm bill is real. The idea that it’s caused by subsidies is false, a myth. So here they are and nobody knows the facts. My question for Marion and all the rest: why haven’t you (ever?) heard the facts about the farm bill? Or if you have heard them, why didn’t it sink in?

    I’m posting IN SUPPORT of food movement goals, not in opposition. My view is that you’re all siding with MEGA AgBiz against any big farm bill solution VS cheap corn, cheap soybeans, cheap hfcs, cheap transfats etc. Obviously, then you all believe I’m wrong, and will continue to support AgBiz against your own obvious stated goals?

    You should care about my claims that YOU support the transfat complex and have not joined those of us advocating against it.

    The facts are that subsidies are the firetrucks at the fire of cheap corn/soy/milk/etc. They correlate, but can easily be proven not to be the cause, as in my videos “Michael Pollan Rebuttal 1″ & 2 where I offer 4 proofs. The real cause is not the PRESENCE of subsidies, but rather the ABSENCE of market management policies and programs: price floors (and ceilings are also absent) and supply reductions as needed to prevent oversupply and cheap prices (and reserve supplies to block prices from going too high to hurt consumers and others).

    Ok, so when Marion and 69 or so other “food … experts” called for 3 key proposals for the farm bill, cheap corn type issues was 1 of the 3 (great) but it was merely a call for false subsidy reform. They didn’t oppose agribusiness by calling for reinstated corn etc. price floors at fair trade levels to “Make AgBiz Pay, Not Farm Subsidies.” They supported all of the benefits to AgBiz by default (zero market management, zero level price floors, zero supply management, (zero price ceilings). That’s worse than the farm bill of the MEGA corps when they called for price floors being lowered to run 1/3 of US farmers out of business in 5 years: cheap corn + concentration of farms.

    I think Eric P is also factually wrong about saturated fats (meat & dairy etc.) and butter. There too he sides with the transfat complex, which got the McGovern Committee to support with transfats, against the data. See “Bittman Bashes Butter.” Ok, must I explain? I’m FOR good nutrition, not against it.

    So here, on both issues, many (most?) in the food movement have heard the mainstream media messages that AgBiz wants you to hear: blame subsidies on farmers while ignoring us; bash saturated fats. “AgBiz,” in hiding behind the subsidy issue (They’re not the “Big Ag” from that 70 experts sign-on.) The Food Movement fell for it, with 70 big experts! And all of the rest of you. See my “Subsidy Caps? Ag Biz vs. ‘Big Ag’”.

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  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    EricP, we have successfully regulated food. It is not as impossible as you seem to think.

    A case in point is the use of trans fat. Several countries require that products that use trans fat must be labeled accordingly. In the States, California and certain large cities (and counties) now ban the use of trans fat in fast food places and restaurants.

    Not only have these regulations helped inform people, they’ve helped decrease the use of trans fat, as well as strike up a dialog that has led to further decreases it use. Trans fat regulations are examples of successful food regulation.

    Bloomberg’s suggested soda rule is another regulation that I think will ultimately be successful (enabled or not). Already, the rule has inspired a dialog about the over-consumption of soda–not to mention the ridiculous sizing tricks fast food companies use in this country.

    Though it’s been difficult to hear the serious discussion through all the corporate fronted cries of “Nanny!”, the discussion has occurred, people are starting to listen.

    Sometimes even the suggestion of regulation is enough to get the food industry to make voluntary changes.

    These regulations are in addition to the many that are necessary to ensure our food system is relatively safe–though we need to improve these regulations and their enforcement.

  • http://www.vitasanas.ch Leoluca Criscione

    Calories-labeling will become even more powerfull if the individual person is aware of her/his caloric requirement!
    Our experience with measuring the personal resting metabolic rate (amount of calories the body burns daily at rest), indicates that this will be more the case.
    I am more reluctant with food regulations! This create more confusion if, for example, oliveoil becomes a green label!!! In relation to the Yale Rudd Center color-coded food labels (“traffic lights”). my comment is clear: the Director of the Center must be blind, as he is himself very obese… and this sice many years!!!!!

  • FarmerJane

    Brad, when you as a commodity farmer speaks, members of the food movement have no idea what you are talking about. That is because the food movement does not include the “farm movement” as part of its history. Our writings, thoughts, concepts, history are NOT part of popular writing as pushed out by popular writers who themselves sell into big mainstream media. The chapters on farm history and farm movement history are largely deleted from the food movement handbook. Instead, we get the glib charges of highly subsidized farmers. Right, I’m watching 3 of my neighboring medium sized dairy farms auctioned off this month and a 4th who committed suicide. Maybe we would just like a fair price for our product from the market place! The only entities benefitting from cheap commodity prices are the large corporations who now control most of the US food supply. I’m sure their shareholders are laughing all the way to the bank.

  • Michael Bulger

    Here is the problem with the simplification that commodity subsidies are not a cause of cheap corn: Subsidies (CCP, DPP, insurance subsidies) favor major commodity crops over crops outside of the subsidy programs. One result of this is that it incentivizes farmers to plant corn. When everyone plants corn there is oversupply and downward pressure on corn prices. This is what I believe many in the food movement are arguing, and on a simplified and underlying level this description is absolutely accurate.

    Just yesterday, the NYTimes published an article on the plight of the US catfish industry. Towards the end of the article, a catfish farmer considered that the best option might be to switch his business to raising corn. The expressed reason was better government support and subsidy. (Here is a link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/01/business/markets-and-drought-hurting-us-catfish-producers.html .)

    So, I’m forced to disagree with Brad in his contention that subsidies are not part of the problem. On the other hand, I do think his argument for supply management deserves serious consideration. If we could imagine for a moment that all subsidies for corn were ended, we should not automatically assume that corn production would drop below that of Brussel sprouts.

    There are tremendous amounts of agricultural training, seed research, farm equipment, processing equipment, and so on, that are devoted to corn. There is also an eager market from the livestock feed, ethanol, and junk food industries that rely on starchy corn. Without subsidies, less farmers may plant corn and the prices they receive might rise. But with the factors mentioned above, can we really expect the full change that the food movement advocates? Or does the food movement need to consider supply management as an important part of the foundation for food system reform?

    At the present moment, I don’t believe that the politics of Congress would allow supply management to make it into a Farm Bill. The corn processors alone would be in uproar, and they would be just the beginning.

    Instead the Senate passed a Farm Bill that limits subsidies to the largest, most wealthy farms. I argue that this is a step in the right direction. This country needs continued efforts to remove subsidies for the largest and wealthiest farms (the very farms that contribute most unevenly to the oversupply of commodity crops). At the same time, we need to provide farmers with a way off the land-price/corn-yield treadmill. Educational and technical resources should be available for farmers transitioning away from corn. And we need to promote a market for something other than cheap meat and cheap junk food.

    That final point is where we come full circle and back to Marion’s blog post. As long as we stay on the merry-go-round of unhealthy food that the industry is spinning, the market is going to continue to drive for more oversupply and more overconsumption. Someone needs to step in and put a limit on both the subsidies to junk food agriculture and production, and also on the overconsumption of these products. And it is unfair to expect the general public to get to the solution faster than the experts who devote their lives to these issues.

    I’ll leave you all with a bit of an analogy. I know a lot about food and the food system. But I don’t know too much about automobile safety or automobile mechanics. As a non-expert, I accept regulations on driving and automobile mechanics. Quite frankly, I’m glad someone out there is making these rules. I don’t have time to delve into the intricacies of cars. I’m too busy doing that with junk food.

  • Charles T. Smith

    Dear Ms. Nestle,

    The advice that you provide people with about nutrition is solid. The advice that you provide about taxing sugar drinks is not, in fact, it is reactionary. The results from taxing cigarettes and sugar drinks are the difference between apples and oranges. A pack of cigarettes cost can be above $6.00 whereas the proposed Richmond tax on sugar drinks is a penny an ounce. Twelve or sixteen cents will not stop anyone from buying soda. In fact as the proposed tax proposition is written the merchant has no obligation to pass the tax onto the customer provided they pay the city monies based on ounces of added sugar that they sell. The research done on taxing sugar drinks demonstrates that a small tax would have a very limited impact on the sales of soda purchases. What this tax will do is negatively impact the poor community as would any regressive tax. Should this tax pass in Richmond it will only encourage other cash strapped cities to follow in suit as El Monte California has already done. I doubt you would support financing city government on the backs of the poor but if the Richmond sugar drink passes that is what will happen.

    The tax was authored and promoted by Richmond Council Member Dr. Jeff Ritterman, the former head of the Richmond Kaiser Cardiology Department. It is Dr. Ritterman’s current position that sugar drinks are responsible for the high rate of obesity in Richmond’s minority community and, therefore, it is in the community’s interest to discourage the consumption of such drinks by adding a hefty City tax on them. Interestingly enough, in a 2008 National Geographic Special, “Stress: Portrait of a Killer,” Dr. Ritterman expressed a broader view, stating that the daily stress of being poor is what leads to health problems. The relationship between the stress of poverty and obesity was one of the primary points in the documentary. So what could change in four years that would lead Dr. Ritterman to change his emphasis and focus exclusively on the issue of sugar drinks? I would suggest that he is leading his middle class constituency to take the reactionary position of blaming the victims and he is doing so for political reasons.

    Where the poorest members of Richmond live there are no supermarkets but only liquor stores and quick-stops. This has been the case for years. Richmond has a very high rate of unemployment particularly amongst its minority population. Richmond has a high rate of drive-by shootings and homicides. Its schools are not known for their high academic performance and they have been cash-strapped for years. These are many of the daily stressors under which the poorest members of Richmond must live. As a result of these and other stressors they suffer from serious stress-related health problems. The abuse of sugar drinks is a symptom, not the cause, of these health issues which affect a large portion of Richmond’s residents. There is a proven correlation between poverty and serious health problems including obesity. You don’t need to be a scientist or a doctor to Google “what states have the highest rates of obesity?” and then Google “which are the poorest states in the US?” to see that the results indicate the very same states. Clearly, the relationship between serious health problems and rates of poverty is glaring. Health issues are class issues.
    The Whitehall studies done in the 1970’s demonstrated that the most accurate predictability of morbidity rates was a person’s status (class) regardless of lifestyle. Dr. Ritterman supported the findings. In fact, Dr. Ritterman has referenced the Whitehall findings in his commentaries as well as in a National Geographic Special: Stress, Portrait of a Killer. I’ve included Dr. Ritterman’s commentaries in addition to the National Geographic Special and award winning seven hour PBS documentary on health and stress.

    I’m asking you to reconsider your position on taxing sugar drinks in light of the information I’m providing you.

    I share your concern about peoples failing health but I’m convinced, based on scientific research, that a sugar tax will only raise stress levels that are already high and contribute to further serious health problems for the poor.

    Thank you for your interest in solving our serious health problems.

    Sincerely,

    Charles T. Smith
    561 Dimm St.
    Richmond Ca 94805
    510-233-5820

    1970’s Whitehall studies, relationship between social status and morbidity rates.

    2004 Ritterman commentary quotes the Whitehall study.

    http://xnet.kp.org/permanentejournal/winter04/beloved.html

    2008 National Geographic Special: Stress Portrait of a Killer. Ritterman is featured in this documentary.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYG0ZuTv5rs

    2008 Unnatural Causes, is inequity making us sick? California Newsreel 4 hr. documentary exploring racial and socioeconomic inequities in health. Important episodes, Bad sugar, In sickness and in wealth, Places matter (Richmond), when the bough breaks, Not just a paycheck, Becoming American, Collateral damage. Available at the Richmond and Berkeley Libraries.

    http://www.unnaturalcauses.org/about_the_series.php

    2011 Ritterman
    “A generation ago, Sir Michael Marmot and colleagues showed convincingly that social class was a far more important determinant of health outcome than cholesterol level, blood pressure, diet, and smoking behavior combined. The message was clear. The social environment is the major determinant of health outcome.”
    Dr. Jeff Ritterman, 3-28-2011

    http://www.healthycal.org/archives/3864

    2012 Ritterman authors a regressive sugar drink tax.

  • http://zedpilot.com/ ErikP

    @Brad Wilson – to clarify, I just said I added fat to my diet with good results – it was not transfats but definitely included a lot of saturated fats. I was trying to say that there are many people out there who would like to regulate what I eat, despite the fact that I can document that they didn’t raise my cholesterol. Also – I probably came across as overly self-assurred – I’m not an expert on subsidies or economics. On the other hand, I have a hard time seeing how a subsidy wouldn’t affect the market.

    @Shelley – no doubt we can regulate food. We regulate pot and spray pant cans (in Chicago) and numerous other things, often with poor results. It is easy to think of the foods you feel are unhealthy, imagine a world where they were taxed/rationed/disallowed, and envision people healthier, etc. I’m just saying it is very difficult to make scientifically backed, fair laws to regulate things.

    @FarmerJane – I completely agree, it’s something I’m trying to learn a lot more about, and trying to really get out and meet farmers to ask questions. I would love any book recommendations, etc. Foodie-inspired ideas seem to have a hard time making it down to the real world. At the same time though, the govt telling people to eat less dairy and beef is both questionable science, and not helping your local dairy farmers. I don’t know enough about nutrition, economics, health, sustainability, and how a farmer can make a solid living to claim any grand solution (or even the next best steps), but I can see a lot of policies that seem to cloud the water.

    @Michael Bulger – the problem with the car analogy is that testing cars in crashes is substantially easier than understanding health. While perhaps there is general agreement that transfats and large quantities of sugar are bad, everything else is very debated. Even the studies that sound solid have reasoned responses. Worse there is a history of wrong steps and politically motivated policy (that’s what the blog is about!). If you feel like, at long last, we’ve figured out nutrition and the government can implement a fair and true set of policies – than it might be like auto safety. :)

    If you want to be healthy, I think you have to be a lot more involved.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    ErikP, since when have we become a people who are afraid to try something new because it might be difficult?

  • Michael Bulger

    @Charles: You seem very concerned that soda taxes are regressive measures that will unfairly burden the poor. Other, more important costs in our society are regressive: the medical costs and the lost wages associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes. What is truly unfair to low-income citizens are the portion sizes and marketing practices of soda companies. The goal of the soda industry is to get low-income citizens and everyone else to drink more soda. The results of the industry’s efforts are the regressive financial costs of obesity and diabetes, and the added stress that they induce.

    There are many delicious beverage options that are not going to be taxed (and good old water is pretty much free). The residents of Richmond are not being forced to spend more money.

    @Erik We move forward with the overwhelming scientific consensus. If the message or regulation gets circumvented, or science eventually provides us with a more accurate picture, then we adjust to our mistakes and the new environment. But not doing anything guarantees we make the mistake of doing nothing.

  • http://zedpilot.com/ ErikP

    @Michael Bulger – This is not the case so far. We move forward with loose consensus of the policy makers that happen to be in charge at the time, who are influenced by some mixture of science and other inputs. Making misguided policy is not better than no policy, in my opinion. Unmaking bad policy taxes decades. For instance scientists don’t agree that consuming cholesterol has a significant effect on your blood cholesterol. Many say it has little effect. Yet we now have decades and decades of policy built up and it almost can’t be undone. While heart disease is epidemic, the main response to is something with no strong scientific basis. This is exactly a result of bad food politics.

    If you have a lot of faith in our ability to make good food policy, I can see how the tax/regulate route would seem more appealing. I see it as me paying a tax on eggs from a farmstand because other people aren’t eating healthily and the egg lobby had a bad year when policy was being made. :) It’s unfair, difficult to enforce, and a big distraction from other, more accessible approaches.

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  • Sylvia Onusic

    A story in the Washington Post 2-2-2013, p A-3 says that the USDA proposed new ‘standards’ regarding what school vending machines will be selling– ‘water, lower calorie sports drinks, diet sodas and baked chips,’ under the headline, “USDA wants schools to sell nutritious foods.”

    Diet sodas with aspartame and baked chips are now “nutritious foods?” It sounds like the sugar lobby is out and the aspartame lobby is in. Aspartame is a poison which breaks down into methanol- which is toxic to the growing brain. Diet sodas are still made with fluoridated water and chemicals. No doubt about it. But wait, the sugar industry still has its day—”more healthful’ are pizzas, fruit cups and yogurt. Most yogurts are nothing more than sugar carriers with lots of additives, and fruit cup is cooked fruit with lots more sugar. Fruit that has been heavily sprayed- see “Dirty Dozen.” It sounds like the same old same old stuff–no improvements have been made except candy and regular soda are out of the machines. But there are exemptions to these rules also proposed to allow candy and regular soda, according to internet reports. So why bother?

  • michelle minton

    This is some watery “evidence” indeed on the assertion that taxes do anything more than cost families more money. First of all, the numbers about how much obesity costs society are so deeply flawed (lost wages aren’t lost to society, as heartless as it might sound lost life years may actually net a fiscal benefit). Most research I’ve seen shows that in the real world taxes have little-to-no long term effect on behavior and have many unintended consequences. I could point to a some resources, but they’ll just be called “bias” in some way or another [just google "do sin taxes work"]. Putting taxation aside, the only way people will start making healthy choices throughout their life is if they understand what is and what isn’t healthy and they *want* to be healthy. That’s where intellectuals like yourself should properly weigh in–educating the public about health. But you shouldn’t start talking about taxation, restrictions, or bans when you think the public isn’t acting on your advice or not fast enough.

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