I am indebted to Michele Simon for sending a photo of this flier for the latest innovation in home-delivered food–Oreo Dessert Pizza. I’m sorry I can’t figure out how to make the photo bigger so you can see it better, but the way this works is that with any online pizza order you get a dessert pizza worth $3.99 tossed in. And, if you order two 20-ounce sodas, you get slap-on cooler wrappers, whatever those might be. The flier doesn’t disclose Nutrition Facts, so you have to guess the calories. Hint: Lots. Somebody try this and report back please.
Search results: pizza
The New York Time published its annual food issue on Sunday, this one with the theme, “Can Big Food Change?”
In the circles in which I travel, Michael Pollan’s “Big food strikes back: Why did the Obamas fail to take on corporate agriculture?” caused the biggest stir. Here’s what set people off:
On “Outlobbied and Outgunned:” The word I’ve been using to describe food industry lobbying against Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign is ferocious.
I’ve always thought that Mrs. Obama must have picked the goal of Let’s Move!—“Ending childhood obesity in a generation“—as a safe, bipartisan issue that Republicans and Democrats could all get behind. Doesn’t everyone want kids to be healthy?
Whatever. The food industry’s response to everything Let’s Move! tried to do was ferocious.
Despite all that, as I’ve said, Let’s Move! managed to accomplish some important gains: healthier school meals, more informative food and menu labels, the White House garden, and—most important—getting food issues on the national agenda.
On “the food movement barely exists:” I once taught a course on food as a social movement with Troy Duster, a sociologist then at NYU, who had much experience teaching about social movements.
He made one point repeatedly: those who are in the middle of a social movement cannot possibly judge its effectiveness. You can only know when a movement has succeeded or failed when it is over.
This one is not over yet.
This movement, fragmented in issues and groups as it most definitely is, may not have clout in Washington, DC, but it is having an enormous effect on supermarkets, food product manufacturers, fast food chains, the producers of meat, eggs, and poultry, and young people in this country.
How else to explain:
- The vast improvement in the quality of foods sold in supermarkets
- The rush of food product makers to remove artificial colors, flavors, trans-fats. and other potentially harmful food additives, including sugars and salt
- The insistence of fast food chains on sourcing meat from animals raised without hormones or antibiotics
- The actions of meat, egg, and poultry producers to care for their animals more humanely
- Soda tax initiatives in so many cities
And my personal favorite,
- The enormous numbers of college students clamoring for courses about food systems and the role of food in matters as diverse as global resource inequities and climate change.
As Troy Duster kept telling us, it’s not over until it’s over.
While waiting for enlightenment, let’s celebrate the proliferation of food organizations. They are all working on important issues and doing plenty of good.
And yes, let’s encourage all of them to move beyond the local, engage in national politics, and put some pressure on Washington to come up with better food policies.
Here are the other articles in the magazine, all of them well worth reading.
- George Steinmetz, SuperSize: The dizzying grandeur of 21st century agriculture (photos)
- Corby Kummer, Pie in the sky: Is it possible to make a more healthful frozen pizza? (I’m quoted)
- Ten Genoways, Close to the Bone: The fight over transparency in the meat industry
- Malia Wollan, Brand new hue: the quest to make a true blue M&M
Wonder of wonders, the FDA at last has issued its Final Guidance on Menu Labeling to go into effect a year from now.
Why astonishment? New York City has had menu labeling since 2008. The national process started in 2010.
Here’s the chronology:
|2010||March 23||President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act which includes a provision requiring chain retail food establishments with 20 or more locations to provide calorie information for standard menu items.|
|July 7||FDA publishes Federal Register notice soliciting comments and suggestions|
|Aug 25||FDA requests comments on “Draft Guidance for Industry: Questions and Answers Regarding Implementation of the Menu Labeling.”|
|2011||Jan 25||FDA withdraws draft implementation guidance; announces intent to exercise enforcement discretion until rulemaking process is complete; requests comments.|
|April 6||FDA issues proposed rule.|
|May 24||FDA issues document correcting errors in proposed rules; extends comment period.|
|July 5||FDA issues notice of proposed rulemaking.|
|2014||Dec 1||FDA issues final rule.|
|2016||April||FDA issues guidance for industry.|
Happily, the rules will cover:
bakeries, cafeterias, coffee shops, convenience stores, delicatessens, food service facilities and concession stands located within entertainment venues (such as amusement parks, bowling alleys, and movie theatres), food service vendors (such as ice cream shops and mall cookie counters), food takeout or delivery establishments (such as pizza takeout and delivery establishments), grocery stores, retail confectionary stores, superstores, quick service restaurants and table service restaurants.
Center for Science in the Public Interest has produced celebratory graphics:
It’s too bad we have to wait yet another year, but menu labels are worth the wait.
The FDA documents:
- Final Guidance for Industry: A Labeling Guide for Restaurants and Retail Establishments Selling Away-From-Home Foods – Part II (Menu Labeling Requirements in Accordance with 21 CFR 101.11)
- Guidance for Industry: Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments: Small Entity Compliance Guide
- Final Rule: Food Labeling; Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments
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.
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!
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:
- Federal Register Notice for the Compliance Date Extension
- Menu and Vending Machines Labeling Requirements
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.
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.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) issued its more than 500-page report yesterday.
Before I say anything about it, please note that this report informs, but does not constitute, the Dietary Guidelines. The agencies—USDA and HHS—write the actual Guidelines and are not expected to do so until the end of this year.
Here are what I see as the highlights (these are direct quotes)
- A healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.
- A diet higher in plant-based foods…and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.
- It will take concerted, bold actions…to achieve and maintain the healthy diet patterns, and the levels of physical activity needed to promote the health of the U.S. population. These actions will require a paradigm shift to an environment in which population health is a national priority and where individuals and organizations, private business, and communities work together to achieve a population-wide “culture of health” in which healthy lifestyle choices are easy, accessible, affordable, and normative.
Some facts and statements from the report (not direct quotes).
- Half the energy intake in U.S. diets comes from a combination of burgers and sandwiches (~14%), desserts and sweet snacks (8.5%), sugary beverages (6.5%), mixed dished made with rice, pasta, and other grains (5.5%, savory snacks (~5%), pizza (4.3%), and meat, poultry and seafood mixed dishes (~4%).
- Nearly half of total sugar intake comes from beverages other than milk and 100% fruit juice
The report comments on issues under current debate.
- Saturated fat: “replacing SFA with unsaturated fats…significantly reduces total and LDL cholesterol…Strong and consistent evidence…shows that replacing SFA [saturated fatty acids] with PUFA [polyunsaturated fatty acids] reduces the risk of CVD [cardiovascular] events and coronary mortality…For every 1 percent of energy intake from SFA replaced with PUFA, incidence of CHD [coronary heart disease] is reduced by 2 to 3 percent. However, reducing total fat (replacing total fat with overall carbohydrates) does not lower CVD risk.”
- Sugars: “Strong and consistent evidence shows that intake of added sugars from food and/or sugar sweetened beverages are associated with excess body weight in children and adults…Strong evidence shows that higher consumption of added sugars, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes among adults and this relationship is not fully explained by body weight.[Theae findings are] compatible with a recommendation to keep added sugars intake below 10 percent of total energy intake.”
- Food labels: “Consumers would benefit from a standardized, easily understood front-of-package (FOP) label on all food and beverage products to give clear guidance about a food’s healthfulness.” [This refers to the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine that I’ve written about previously; they disappeared without a trace.]
- Soda taxes: “Economic and pricing approaches, using incentives and disincentives should be explored to promote the purchase of healthier foods and beverages. For example, higher sugar-sweetened beverage taxes may encourage consumers to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.”
- SNAP: “Policy changes within the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), similar to policies in place for the WIC program, should be considered to encourage purchase of healthier options, including foods and beverages low in added sugars. Pilot studies using incentives and restrictions should be tested and evaluated.”
The DGAC recommends (these are direct quotes but not necessarily complete):
- Establish local, state, and Federal policies to make healthy foods accessible and affordable and to limit access to high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods and sugar-sweetened beverages in public buildings and facilities.
- Set nutrition standards for foods and beverages offered in public places.
- Improve retail food environments and make healthy foods accessible and affordable in underserved neighborhoods and communities.
- Implement the comprehensive school meal guidelines (National School Lunch Program) from the USDA that increase intakes of vegetables (without added salt), fruits (without added sugars), and whole grains.
- Limit marketing unhealthy foods to children.
- Make drinking water freely available to students throughout the day.
- Ensure competitive foods meet the national nutrition standards (e.g., Dietary Guidelines for Americans).
- Eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages [from schools].
- Nutrition Facts label should include added sugars (in grams and teaspoons).
And for all federal nutrition programs, the DGAC recommends:
- Align program standards with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans so as to achieve the 2015 DGAC recommendations and promote a “culture of health.”
Congratulations to this committee for its courageous recommendations.
Why courageous? See my previous comments on the objections to such advice.
The next step: public comment:
The public is encouraged to view the independent advisory group’s report and provide written comments at www.DietaryGuidelines.gov for a period of 45 days after publication in the Federal Register. The public will also have an opportunity to offer oral comments at a public meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, on March 24, 2015. Those interested in providing oral comments at the March 24, 2015, public meeting can register at www.DietaryGuidelines.gov. Capacity is limited, so participants will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Here’s your chance to support this committee’s excellent ideas and demonstrate public approval for diets that promote the health of people and the planet.
Note: the reactions to the report are pouring in and I will deal with them next week. Enjoy the weekend!
Food Politics will mourn the passing of the Colbert Report.
What, you might ask, did the Colbert Report have to do with Food Politics?
For one thing, I was lucky (well, nonplussed) to appear on the show in August 2009.
The topic? Sugar trade policy.
Oh. Of course.
I explained what this was about in a blog post.
Better, Colbert did occasional pieces: Thought for Food.
Eater has collected them all in one place (thanks to Eleanor Talbot West for sending).
Or, if you want to watch them separately…
- Thought for Food – Domino’s Smart Slice & Doritos Jacked …
- Thought for Food – Fairlife Milk & Pizza Hut’s Subconscious …
- Thought for Food – Ban on Trans Fats & McDonald’s McRib …
- Thought for Food – Kentucky Tuna & Grilled Cheese Burger …
- Thought for Food – Spreadable Sharia & Buddy Cup – The ...
- Thought for Food – Bug Food Coloring, Hot-Dog-Stuffed …
- Thought for Food – KFC’s Go Cup & Powerful Yogurt – The …
- Thought for Food – Responsible Snacking & Second Breakfast
It was great while it lasted. I will miss the brilliant satire.
Addition: A reader just sent this link to Colbert’s in-character testimony to Congress on agricultural labor issues (from the expressions on the faces of the people sitting behind him, they must have been taking him seriously).
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 National Grocers Association and other retailers who sell prepared foods fought for exclusion.
- Rumors were that the White House wanted weaker regulations.
Well here they are.
- The FDA press release
- The FDA’s home page on menu labeling
- The FDA’s fact sheet on menu labels
- The Federal Register notice for menu labels
- The FDA’s fact sheet on vending machine labels
- The Federal Register notice for vending machine labels
- Statement from FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg
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.