Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Jul 20 2015

Another five food industry-sponsored studies with food industry-favorable results

Here’s my latest collection of five research studies paid for by a food manufacturer who can use the study results for marketing purposes.  My point: industry-sponsored studies invariably appear to favor the sponsor’s marketing interests.

I am not looking for sponsored studies in any systematic way.  They just appear.

I very much would like to find sponsored studies that produce results contrary to the sponsor’s interests.  If you see any, please send.

In the meantime, here’s the latest collection.

Cooked oatmeal consumption is associated with better diet quality, better nutrient intakes, and reduced risk for central adiposity and obesity in children 2-18 years: NHANES 2001-2010Carol E. Carolyn E. O’Neil,, Theresa A. Nicklas, Victor L. Fulgoni, III and Maureen A. DiRienzo.  Food & Nutrition Research 2015, 59: 26673

  • Conclusion: Consumption of oatmeal by children was associated with better nutrient intake, diet quality, and reduced risk for central adiposity and obesity and should be encouraged as part of an overall healthful diet.
  • Sponsor: PepsiCo (owner of Quaker Oats); the lead author is a member of the Kellogg’s Breakfast Council.

Including “Added Sugars” on the Nutrition Facts Panel: How Consumers Perceive the Proposed Change.  Idamarie Laquatra, Kris Sollid, Marianne Smith Edge, Jason Pelzel, John TurnerJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, June 9, 2015. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.04.017

  • Conclusion: NFPs [Nutrition Facts Panels] with “Added Sugars” declarations were misleading and the resulting misperception influenced purchase intent.
  • Funder: International Food Information Council (an industry-funded group).  Two of the authors are IFIC officials.
  • Note: The food industry generally opposes the FDA’s proposal to list “added sugars” on food labels.

Daily potassium intake and sodium-to-potassium ratio in the reduction of blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.  Aristea Binia, Jonathan Jaeger,  Youyou Hu, Anurag Singh, and Diane Zimmermann. Journal of Hypertension, Volume 33 Number 8 August 2015: 1509-1520.

  • Conclusion: Potassium supplementation is associated with reduction of blood pressure in patients who are not on antihypertensive medication…Patients with elevated blood pressure may benefit from increased potassium intake along with controlled or decreased sodium intake.
  • Sponsor: Nestlé Research Centre (all authors are affiliated with the Centre).
  • Note: Nestlé produces potassium-fortified products for patients with renal disease.  It might like to see the use of these products extended to other purposes, such as blood-pressure reduction.

Consuming High-Protein Soy Snacks Affects Appetite Control, Satiety, and Diet Quality in Young People and Influences Select Aspects of Mood and Cognition.  Heather J Leidy, Chelsie B Todd, Adam Z Zino, Jordan E Immel, Ratna Mukherjea, Rebecca S Shafer, Laura C Ortinau, and Michelle Braun. J. Nutr. 2015; 145:1614-1622   doi:10.3945/jn.115.212092.

  • Conclusion: Afternoon snacking, particularly on HP [high-protein] soy foods, improves appetite, satiety, and diet quality in adolescents, while beneficially influencing aspects of mood and cognition.
  • Sponsor: Du Pont Nutrition & Health (maker of soy ingredients). Two of the authors are employed by the company.

Effects of egg consumption on carotenoid absorption from co-consumed, raw vegetables.  Jung Eun Kim, Susannah L Gordon, Mario G Ferruzzi, and Wayne W Campbell. Am J Clin Nutr 2015; 102:75-83 doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.111062

  • Conclusion: These findings support the claim that co-consuming cooked whole eggs is an effective way to enhance carotenoid absorption from other carotenoid-rich foods such as a raw mixed-vegetable salad.
  • Sponsor: American Egg Board–Egg Nutrition Center, among others
  • Nutrition 101 note: Carotenoids are precursors of vitamin A.  They are fat-soluble and require fat to be absorbed into the body.  Any food fat will do.
Jul 17 2015

Weekend reading: Megan Kimble’s Unprocessed

Megan Kimble.  Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food.  William Morrow, 2015 

download

 

I liked this book and did a blurb for it:

Confused about why nutritionists like me advise eating relatively unprocessed foods?   Megan Kimble spends a year taking a deep dive into the meaning of processing by trying to an unprocessed life, and on careful budget yet.  Part memoir, Unprocessed takes us through Kimble’s evolving understanding that that we have real choices about the way we eat and that these choices greatly matter for our health, economics, and sense of community.

Jul 16 2015

Does General Mills get ideas from The Onion? Or vice versa?

From The Onion: “New Omnigrain Cheerios Made With Every Existing Grain On Earth”

From Wegmans, Ithaca:

Truth is stranger than satire.

Jul 15 2015

The curious incident of Nick Jonas, Coca-Cola, Crossfit, and Diabetes

Thanks to Melanie Nesheim for sending me a link to Russ Greene’s (The Russells) account of Nick Jonas’s dispute with Crossfit over its posting of this image.

As best as I can tell, here’s what happened.

Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers, who has Type 1 diabetes, sent out a tweet objecting to this image as insulting to people with type 1 diabetes.   Note: Sugary beverages are a not a risk factor for type 1 diabetes but they are for type 2 (see, for example thisthis, and this).

Russ Greene entered the fray with a tweet pointing out that Coca-Cola sponsors the Jonas Brothers’ concerts.

Apparently, this caught the attention of Good Morning America.

A spokesman for Nick Jonas denied that he had any kind of deal with Coca-Cola.

Capture

Maybe not, but as Mr. Greene pointed out, Coca-Cola presents or sponsors the concerts and advertises that it does so.

My conclusions from this incident:

  • In taking on CrossFit’s critique of the role of sugary drinks in diabetes, Nick Jonas became a de facto spokesman for Coca-Cola.
  • Coca-Cola’s support of Jonas Brothers’ concerts paid off.
  • Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of musicians and sports figures buys loyalty and deflects attention from the well documented role of sugary drinks in type 2 diabetes and other health conditions.

And, of course, I examine this sort of sponsorship in much greater detail in my forthcoming Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning)which comes out in October.

Jul 14 2015

Is the Obama Administration ambiguous about food safety?

Helena Bottemiller Evich of Politico Morning Agriculture, has produced an alarming investigation of the Obama Administration’s failure to support its own food safety initiatives.  Fortunately, Politico has released it from behind the paywall so it can be read by non-subscribers.  Do read it.  It’s a depressing slice of political reality.

The Obama administration and Congress have all but squandered an opportunity to give the anemic Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for the safety of 80 percent of the nation’s food supply, a level of oversight the public long assumed it already had.

On paper…the Food Safety Modernization Act…mandated more inspections and much tougher anti-contamination standards for everything from peaches to imported pesto sauce, and it placed more emphasis on preventing outbreaks than on chasing them down after people become sick.

But almost five years later, not one of the sweeping new rules has been implemented and funding is more than $276 million behind where it needs to be. A law that could have been legacy-defining for President Barack Obama instead represents a startling example of a broad and bipartisan policy initiative stymied by politics and the neglect of some of its strongest proponents.

The result is shown in this chart.

She adds: 

The White House has routinely put nutrition policy ahead of food safety, sat on key regulations for months and made only halfhearted attempts to fund the law…Congress, too, bears blame: With no real pressure from the White House or the public, Capitol Hill has given the FDA less than half of what the agency says it needs to actually enforce the new rules, once they take effect.

I’m not so sure about the “putting nutrition ahead” part of this.  Critics have long complained that the White House could have done much more to promote healthier diets.  They recall the lack of support for the Interagency Working Group’s recommendations for nutrition standards for marketing to children.  Menu labeling has just been delayed a year (although advocates tell me that this compromise was necessary to keep labeling for pizza places and movie theaters—ultimately a victory).  

This administration has about a year left to get its legacy in order.  A full-court press in support of the FDA is just what is needed.  Now!

Jul 13 2015

Nuclear negotiations with Iran: the food politics

My dear friend, the food writer, cookbook author, and restaurant consultant Joyce Goldstein, is also a careful analyst of today’s global political scene.

She points out that the New York Times account (exceptionally clear, by the way) of the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran suggests one reason why they are going on endlessly:

To sustain itself during its marathon meetings, the United States negotiating team has since the beginning of June consumed at least 10 pounds of Twizzlers, 30 pounds of mixed nuts and dried fruit, 20 pounds of string cheese and more than 200 Rice Krispie Treats, according to its informal count.

Fruits and vegetables anyone?

Let’s join in a chorus of “Give Peas a Chance.”

Jul 10 2015

FDA caves in to lobbying pressures, delays menu labeling

Yesterday, the FDA announced a delay in implementation of menu labeling until December 1, 2016.

Since the FDA issued the menu labeling final rule on December 1, 2014, the agency has had extensive dialogue with chain restaurants, covered grocery stores and other covered businesses, and answered numerous questions on how the rule can be implemented in specific situations. Industry, trade and other associations, including the grocery industry, have asked for an additional year to comply with the menu labeling final rule, beyond the original December 2015 compliance date. The FDA agrees additional time is necessary for the agency to provide further clarifying guidance to help facilitate efficient compliance across all covered businesses and for covered establishments to come into compliance with the final rule. The FDA is extending the compliance date for the menu labeling rule to December 1, 2016, for those covered by the rule.

Here are the relevant Federal Register notices:

Let’s be clear about what’s going on here.  New York City, where I live, has had menu labeling since 2008.  The world has not come to an end.

The Affordable Care Act made menu labeling go national in 2010.  The Supreme Court affirmed that law in 2012.

The seemingly endless delays look like successful lobbying at the expense of consumers and public health.

The New York Times account quotes me on this point:

This is a huge victory for the restaurant lobbyists,” said Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “Food companies must be hoping that if they can delay menu labeling long enough, it will just go away.

The pizza industry, one of the chief lobbying groups on this issue, is pleased by the decision.  Lynn Liddle, Chair of the American Pizza Community sent out this statement yesterday:

FDA’s delay confirms both the serious deficiencies in the final rules and the urgent need for enactment of the bipartisan Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 2017).  Unfortunately, FDA proceeded with an approach to final rules that impose significant compliance costs without achieving any meaningful improvements in consumer education.  After years of uncertainty, FDA still has not addressed basic questions regarding implementation.  The American Pizza Community looks forward to continuing to work with Members of Congress to secure timely passage of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act.

If you can’t get federal agencies to back off on public health, go right to Congress.

The pizza industry had already succeeded in getting this provision in the House Agricultural Appropriations bill:

SEC. 744. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce the final rule entitled ‘‘Food Labeling; Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments’’ published by the Food and Drug Administration in the Federal Register on December 1, 24 2014 (79 Fed. Reg. 71156 et seq.) until the later of— (1) December 1, 2016; or (2) the date that is one year after the date on which the Secretary of Health and Human Services publishes Level 1 guidance with respect to nutrition labeling of standard menu items in restaurants and similar retail food establishments.

Although this act is not yet passed and it’s not clear whether this provision would have survived, the FDA got the message (or maybe the White House made sure that it did?).

Menu labels inform the public about the number of calories in the foods they are buying.

The ferocity of lobbying on this idea suggests that restaurant companies would rather you did not have this information.

The FDA, alas, is not helping much on this one.

Jul 9 2015

Annals of the nutrition transition: KFC in Myanmar

The nutrition transition is the term used to describe a population’s rapid shift from widespread undernutrition to even more widespread overnutrition and its health consequences.

Here is an example of how that happens.

Thanks to Catherine Normile, currently working in Myanmar, for this report.

The first KFC, and the first major American fast food chain for that matter, opened in Yangon yesterday. I didn’t go inside but I scoped it out, I thought you may be interested to see the incredible crowd outside, and how unfortunate a contribution this is to Yangon’s downtown. It’s on a main road directly across the street from Bogyoke Market, the busiest market in Yangon. My favorite quote comes from this Jakarta Post article: “It is internationally famous, so I think it must be healthy.” Said by a man who queued for 3 hours to get chicken.

Myanmar1

Note the waiting crowd.

Myanmar3

There were long lines to get in.

Myanmar5

The Burmese diet is changing.  Catherine’s previous report was on the influx of Coca-Cola.

I’ll ask again: is anyone tracking changes in health statistics in that country?

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