According to FoodProductionDaily, my newsletter source for information about food and nutrition in Europe, the U.K. Food Standards agency is changing its red-yellow-green labeling system to distinguish added sugars from those naturally present in foods. This is a good idea and I wish the FDA would do the same thing, but one of the reasons given doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. According to this report, the Food Standards Agency agreed to do this because “sugars derived from fruit, such as fructose, are generally lower in calories, while added sugars are perceived as unhealthier.” Added sugars may be perceived as unhealthier, but sugars are sugars and they all–sucrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, lactose, and all the rest–have the same number of calories, roughly 4 per gram. I think there is a better reason: naturally occurring sugars come with everything else that’s in fruits and vegetables, and added sugars don’t.
Today’s question comes from Nic: “Are there lobbyists that work for promoting public health and nutrition, or does Congress primarily receive information through government groups (FDA, etc.)?”
Yes, lobbyists work for nutrition and health groups. These groups register as lobbyists and you can look them up on congressional listings. Groups such as the American Public Health Association and Center for Science in the Public Interest have people on staff whose job it is to provide information to elected officials and federal agency staff. But these groups don’t have anywhere near the resources or political clout of food or drug companies. Donations to election campaigns: that’s the real problem, as you can see by looking at data collected by Open Secrets.
So now the Senate has blocked action on the Farm Bill, perhaps to give President Bush a break so he won’t have to veto it, which is what he said he would do. As I suggested in my last post on the topic, the Bill is hopeless to understand: 1360 pages, 17 of them just for the Table of Contents. They should all be ashamed. It’s time to elect congressional representatives who represent the public interest and care about issues like sustainability and health. I wonder how we can do that?
Kraft Foods is selling off Post cereals to Ralcorp Holdings, a company that markets foods under private labels. Kraft had revenues of $34 billion in 2006, of which $21 billion came from U.S. consumers; its profits were about $3 billion. It spent $105 million to advertise Post cereals that year, down 23% from 2005, clearly a sign of disinterest. Kraft used to be owned by Altria which used to be Philip Morris which bought Kraft for $12.9 billion in 1988. Post makes Fruity Pebbles and runs a website for kids. European food analysts speculate that Kraft is doing this because of “the double whammy of high cereal prices and strict legislation on advertising to children.” Kraft’s products have never been endorsed by the American Heart Association, because that organization does not accepts payments for its HeartCheck certification for products owned by cigarette companies. My question: will the American Heart Association endorsement now start appearing on Post cereals?
Since 1995, the USDA has done census surveys of the extent of food “insecurity”–the euphemism it uses for not having enough food to eat–in the U.S. population. USDA has just released the 2006 survey, which finds 10.9% of the population–including about half a million children–to be food insecure. This percentage is about the same as in previous years. About half of the food insecure population gets federal food assistance, Food Stamps, WIC, or others. What about the other half?
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working on a book about pet food with Cornell professor Malden Nesheim. We are the new nutrition editors of BARK magazine, which has just printed our first answers to Nutrition Perspectives questions. We will be answering questions for BARK occasionally so if you have some, send them along.
Whenever I get comments like those on the previous post (not yours Anna, the others), I’m pretty sure that the Center for Consumer Freedom has been tracking my work and has just said something about it. The Center advertises itself as a consumer advocacy group but is really a public relations agency for food companies and trade associations hired to attack critics. The Center does not disclose its funders because it is set up in a way that permits that information to be kept secret. SourceWatch, however, describes how this group operates and lists some of its funding sources. It is an interesting list. The Wikipedia entry is also worth a look.
Does anyone else know anything about this group? Do share.
Out of the United Kingdom comes news that its new policies designed to restrict food advertising to children are not working. They were not nearly restrictive enough. Most programs watched by young children are not affected by the rules, and food companies have figured out ways to continue business as usual. Lessons to be learned?