A new study from U. North Carolina measures soft drink consumption in the U.S. population from 1965 to 2002. The increase is 21%–and a whopping 222 calories per day, close to the reported increase in calorie intake from all sources over that time period. The authors count all sweetened drinks: traditional colas, juice drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, and vitamin waters. All of these add calories (unless they are artificially sweetened, of course.
We have this week’s Advertising Age to thank for telling us about McDonald’s new marketing venue: the covers of report cards! And how’s this for an incentive: kids in this school district in Florida who earn all A’s and B’s, have no more than two absences, or (not even and?) exhibit good behavior are entitled to a free happy meal when they present their report card. Next?
Plenty, apparently. See what the New York Times says about all the other food companies that have figured out creative ways to market to school kids.
I can’t help getting caught up in the arguments about school nutrition standards, particularly because I was quoted in an article about them in the New York Times last week. I am very much of two minds on the subject:
On the one hand: My understanding is that Senator Harkin thinks that his plan for school nutrition standards is the best that can be expected in the current administration. Will the next Farm Bill do something better? I have no idea. So from a pragmatic standpoint, Harkin’s bill is worth supporting. It will get the worst foods out of most schools in most places.
On the other hand:
On the other hand:With that said, I personally do not favor setting up nutrient-based criteria for deciding which foods are in or out. I think such standards are a slippery slope. If you set those kinds of standards, food companies will simply formulate products to slip just under the cut points. Does a gram of sugar make that much difference? I don’t think so. My personal view is that schools shouldn’t sell competing foods at all and that vending machines should be removed from schools. Out! Vending machines didn’t used to be in schools and they don’t have to be there now. But, as I like to explain, I have tenure and I get to take principled positions on such matters.
And, if you read Portuguese, you can see further comments on this site.
And here’s what the New York Times editorial writers have to say about this issue.
The journal Pediatrics has a supplement this December on what to do about childhood obesity. Its parent organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics joins with a bunch of other health professional organizations to make suggestions about what doctors and other health practitioners should be doing, basically paying close attention and taking action. The same supplement has articles about prevention and treatment. These are aimed at doctors. The recommendations are just fine, but could any doctor do them? What would it take to put this kind of advice into practice?
The National Center for Health Statistics has just released its annual report on the health of Americans. For people who love data, this is the source. Not only does it have charts and graphs on the leading causes of sickness and death, but you can download them as full color powerpoint slides. My favorites: the proportion of people from age one on who eat in restaurants every week (lots).
Today’s “Ask Marion” on Eating Liberally follows up on my previous post about the FDA Science Board’s tough review of agency resources and competence. Enjoy!
Here’s what the New York Times has to say about the new report from the FDA’s Science Board. The Science Board is a high-level committee that directly advises the FDA Commissioner (full disclosure: I used to be a consumer representative on that Board). At the Commissioner’s request, it has just issued a no-holds-barred report on the current state of the FDA. Congress, it says, has deliberately taken resources away from the FDA to the point where it cannot possibly do what it is supposed to. The report singles out the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition–the part that deals with food regulation and safety–as a particular target for budget cuts. Since 1992, for example, CFSAN has lost 15% of its workforce, but has far more to do. You think a weak food regulatory agency is maybe not such a good idea? Let your congressional representatives know what you think about this issue. You don’t know who they are? Just go to this site, type in your zip code, and take it from there.