Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Jan 21 2016

This week’s five industry-funded studies. The score: 105/9.

I’ve collected five more studies funded directly or indirectly by food companies or trade associations, with results useful for marketing purposes.  This brings the total to 105 that I’ve noticed since last March versus only 9 with results that must have disappointed the sponsors.

Canned Vegetable and Fruit Consumption Is Associated with Changes in Nutrient Intake and Higher Diet Quality in Children and Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2010Marjorie R. Freedman, PhD; Victor L. Fulgoni III, PhD.  J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.10.013.

  • Conclusions: Results suggest CVþCF consumption was associated with higher intake of select nutrients, a higher-quality diet, and comparable adiposity measures and blood pressure.
  • Funding for this project was received from the Canned Food Alliance.  As senior vice president at Nutrition Impact, LLC, V. L. Fulgoni III provides food and nutrition consulting and database analyses for various members of the food and beverage industry.  No potential conflict of interest was reported by M. R. Freedman.

Regular Fat and Reduced Fat Dairy Products Show Similar Associations with Markers of Adolescent Cardiometabolic Health.   O’Sullivan, T.A.; Bremner, A.P.; Mori, T.A., Beilin, L.J., Wilson, C., Hafekost, K., Ambrosini, G.L., Huang, R.C., Oddy, W.H..Nutrients 2016, 8, 22.

  • Conclusion: Although regular fat dairy was associated with a slightly better cholesterol profile in boys, overall, intakes of both regular fat and reduced fat dairy products were associated with similar cardiometabolic associations in adolescents.
  • Conflicts of Interest: Therese A. O’Sullivan received a grant from The Dairy Health and Nutrition Consortium Australia…which provided funding for the analysis and write up of this study. No other authors declare a conflict of interest.

Suboptimal Plasma Long Chain n-3 Concentrations are Common among Adults in the United States, NHANES 2003–2004. Rachel A. Murphy, Elaine A. Yu, Eric D. Ciappio, Saurabh Mehta and Michael I. McBurney   Nutrients 2015, 7, 10282–10289; doi:10.3390/nu7125534.

  • Conclusion: Suboptimal LCn-3 [omega-3] concentrations are common among U.S. adults. These findings highlight the need to increase LCn-3 intake among Americans.
  • Conflicts of Interest: M.I.M., E.D.C. and R.A.M. are employees of D.S.M. Nutritional Products, L.L.C., manufacturers and suppliers of omega-3 nutritional lipids. E.Y. and S.M. have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Red Raspberries and Their Bioactive Polyphenols: Cardiometabolic and Neuronal Health Links.  Britt M Burton-Freeman, Amandeep K Sandhu, and  Indika Edirisinghe.  Adv Nutr January 2016 Adv Nutr vol. 7: 44-65, 2016. doi: 10.3945/​an.115.009639

  • Conclusion: The body of research is growing and supports a potential role for red raspberries in reducing the risk of metabolically based chronic diseases.
  • Funding: Supported in part by various donors and the National Processed Raspberry Council.

Dietary flavonoid intake and incidence of erectile dysfunction. Aedín Cassidy, Mary Franz, and Eric B Rimm.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. First published ahead of print January 13, 2016 as doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.122010.

  • Conclusions: These data suggest that a higher habitual intake of specific flavonoid-rich foods is associated with reduced ED incidence. Intervention trials are needed to further examine the impact of increasing intakes of commonly consumed flavonoid-rich foods on men’s health.
  • Authors’ disclosure: AC and EBR received funding from the US Blueberry Highbush Council for a separate project unrelated to this publication.
  • Comment: The University of East Anglia, where the lead author works, sent out a press release “Blueberries associated with reduced risk of erectile dysfunction.”
Jan 20 2016

Congratulations to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ for its new sponsorship policy

Several members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND–formerly the American Dietetic Association) sent me a letter from the Academy’s president, Evelyn Crayton, announcing its new policy on sponsorship.

AND’s previous policy, which encouraged sponsorship by food companies selling fast food, salty snacks, and sugary drinks, has been the subject of a critical investigative report and induced members of the Academy to create Dietitians for Professional Integrity to get the policy changed.

This advocacy worked.  It induced AND’s leadership to appoint a Sponsorship Advisory Task Force (SATF) to recommend a less conflicted policy to AND’s Board of Directors.

The SATF delivered its report to the Board on January 13.  As Evelyn Crayton explains,

The Board voted to implement a pilot program encompassing many of the SATF’s recommendations. The one-year pilot program includes appointing a Sponsorship Committee to review national-level sponsor opportunities and to develop assessment tools that will support the sponsorship process.

The Board of Directors approved the following newly revised sponsorship guidelines, which take effect immediately for all Academy organizational units. Dietetic Practice Groups and Member Interest Groups will be required to adhere to these guidelines and Affiliates are encouraged to adopt them.

Sponsorship approval requires that:

  • The sponsor’s vision and mission align with the Academy’s Vision, Mission and Strategic Goals.
  • The sponsor’s product portfolio is broadly aligned with the Academy’s Vision: Optimizing health through food and nutrition.
  • The sponsor relationship and sponsor product portfolio are broadly aligned with official Academy positions.
  • All aspects of the sponsorship (such as research, consumer messaging or professional education for members) align with the Academy’s Scientific Integrity Principles.
  • The Academy does not endorse any company, brand or company products, nor does the Academy’s name or logo appear on any product. Such endorsement is neither actual nor implied.
  • The Academy maintains final editorial control and approval of all content in materials bearing the Academy name or logo.
  • There is clear separation of Academy messages and content from brand information or promotion.
  • Relevant facts and important information are included.
  • The Board is confident that these revised guidelines and the new Sponsorship Committee pilot program will enable the Academy to better serve the organization and our members.

This looks impressive and deserves congratulations.  The policy calls for transparency, separation, and alignment—all laudable goals.

I have only two concerns:

  • What did the SATF report actually say?  How about making it available?  [If anyone has a copy and can send, please do.]
  • What is the definition of “alignment with the Academy’s goals and principles?”

As always, the devil is in the details.  As Andy Bellatti explains,

Some of these guidelines (i.e.: “the sponsor’s mission and vision align with AND’s”) already exist in the current policy — the same policy that considered PepsiCo (and former sponsors Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, and General Mills) an appropriate sponsor.

The Academy’s Board can start the process by making the SATF report public (at least to members) and then explaining its process for setting the policy.*

It also needs to explain how “alignment” will be defined.  What are the actual criteria for deciding whether AND will accept food-industry sponsorship.

But this is a great first step and deserves much praise.

*Update: the Academy released the report.

Jan 19 2016

Nutra-Ingredients special edition: world malnutrition

What is the role of the food industry in helping to address world malnutrition?  This collection of articles from Nutra-Ingredients.com begins with a viewpoint from Nestlé (no relation), the world’s largest food company.

Nestlé: Profit is not a dirty word in the race against global malnutrition

Big food companies like Nestlé are oft-criticised for being a factor in the spread of non-communicable diseases like obesity and diabetes with less healthy food offerings but all are engaged in shifting their portfolios to the healthier end of the spectrum, and their capacity to deliver benefits with fortified offerings to malnourished populations can be overlooked.“The food industry is a commercial enterprise – that won’t change – but it has immense power to bring nutrients to the populations that needs them the most.

Here are the other articles in this series.

Jan 15 2016

Weekend Reading: Divided Spirits

Sarah Bowen.  Divided Spirits: Tequila, Mezcal, and the Politics of Production.  University of California Press, 2015

This remarkable book, a recent addition to UC Press’s series on California Studies in Food and Culture, uses drinks distilled from roasted, fermented agave as a basis for entering into debates about production and protection of indigenous food products in the face of globalization.

In recent years, traditional foods and drinks have emerged as profitable and politically salient alternatives to the perceived homogenizing effects of globalization.  Initiatives like the Slow Food movement and DOs [denomination of origin] attempt to rescue eating establishments, dishes, and products from the flood of standardization engendered by the industrial food system.  In doing so, they strive to support the rural communities, farmers, and processors involved in the production of traditional products.  And yet, as my research shows, efforts to regulate Mexico’s iconic spirits illustrate the limitations of relying on alternative markets to protect food cultures and the livelihoods of those who produce them.  My work demonstrates how cultural symbolism can be manipulated to perpetuate and deepen long-standing inequalities along global commodity chains.

Or, as she explains much later, “the right to define what constitutes ‘tequila’ and ‘mezcal’ extends as much from market power and it does from a sense of tradition or justice.”

Consider this book with your next Margarita.

Jan 14 2016

Five more industry-sponsored studies. The score 100:9

If you have been following this saga, you will know that since mid-March 2015 I’ve been collecting examples of published research supported wholly or in part by food companies.  As of today, the collection includes 95 studies with results favorable to the sponsor’s marketing interests as opposed to just 9 with unfavorable results.

Here are the most recent five.  These bring up general and specific questions that I’m pondering these days and I’ve indicated them in red.

The Effects of Water and Non-Nutritive Sweetened Beverages on Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance: A Randomized Clinical Trial.  John C. Peters, Jimikaye Beck, Michelle Cardel, Holly R. Wyatt, Gary D. Foster, Zhaoxing Pan, Alexis C. Wojtanowski, Stephanie S. Vander Veur, Sharon J. Herring, Carrie Brill, and James O. Hill. Obesity (2015) 00, 00–00. doi:10.1002/oby.21327.

  • Conclusions: Water and NNS [non-nutritive sweetened] beverages were not equivalent for weight loss and maintenance during a 1-year behavioral treatment program. NNS beverages were superior for weight loss and weight maintenance in a population consisting of regular users of NNS beverages who either maintained or discontinued consumption of these beverages and consumed water during a structured weight loss program. These results suggest that NNS beverages can be an effective tool for weight loss and maintenance within the context of a weight management program.
  • Funding agencies: The study was fully funded by The American Beverage Association. The American Beverage Association was not involved in the design, conduct, interpretation, or manuscript preparation of this study. Furthermore, a third-party organization (Biofortis-Provident) was hired at the PIs’ request. Biofortis-Provident audited data at both clinical sites to check for the accuracy and integrity of the data…Disclosure: J.C.P. and J.O.H. received consulting fees from The Coca-Cola Company outside of the submitted work.
  • Questions: Does recruiting a third party to audit data increase confidence in the credibility of this study?  Isn’t it more relevant to ask about how the research question is framed? 

Nutrition and Health Disparities: The Role of Dairy in Improving Minority Health Outcomes.  Constance Brown-Riggs.  Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(1), 28; doi:10.3390/ijerph13010028.

  • Conclusion: Because of the presence of lactase-producing cultures, yogurt is often a more easily digestible alternative to milk, and thus more palatable to people who experience symptoms of lactose intolerance. This was a key factor cited in the final rule to include yogurt in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
  • Funding: This work was supported by The Dannon Company Inc. (White Plains, NY). The Dannon Company Inc. provided information for this article but did not have final approval for its content.
  • Conflicts of Interest: Nutrition advisor for Dannon’s One Yogurt Everyday Initiative, providing consultation services on the health issues affecting African Americans.

Protein Supplementation at Breakfast and Lunch for 24 Weeks beyond Habitual Intakes Increases Whole-Body Lean Tissue Mass in Healthy Older Adults.  Catherine Norton, Clodagh Toomey, William G McCormack, Peter Francis, Jean Saunders, Emmet Kerin, and Philip Jakeman.  Nutr. 2016; 146:65-69 doi:10.3945/jn.115.219022.

  • Conclusions: Protein supplementation at breakfast and lunch for 24 wk in healthy older adults resulted in a positive (+0.6 kg) difference in LTM compared with an isoenergetic, nonnitrogenous maltodextrin control. These observations suggest that an optimized and balanced distribution of meal protein intakes could be beneficial in the preservation of lean tissue mass in the elderly.
  • Funding: Supported by Food for Health Ireland and Enterprise Ireland grant CC20080001.  Author disclosures: C Norton, C Toomey, P Francis, J Saunders, E Kerin, and P Jakeman, no conflicts of interest. WG McCormack was an employee of Carbery Ingredients on secondment to Food for Health Ireland during the in vivo data collection and analysis.
  • Comment: The Carbery Group advertises itself as “a global leader in food ingredients, flavours and cheese.”
  • Question: Why would Carbery put one of its employees to work on this study?

Dietary vitamin D dose-response in healthy children 2 to 8 y of age: a 12-wk randomized controlled trial using fortified foods.  Neil R Brett, Paula Lavery, Sherry Agellon, Catherine A Vanstone, Jonathon L Maguire, Frank Rauch, and Hope A Weiler.  Am J Clin Nutr 2016; 103:144-152 doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.115956.

  • Conclusion: Increasing the vitamin D intakes of young children through fortification of alternative dairy products results in significantly higher serum concentrations of 25(OH)D and a significantly greater proportion of children with serum 25(OH)D $50 nmol/L during periods of minimal ultraviolet B radiation exposure.
  • Supported by funding from Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and Canada Research Chairs, and in-kind support from Agropur and Ultima Foods for the study products.
  • Question: Does providing study products introduce conflicts of interest?

Comparison of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and a higher-fat DASH diet on blood pressure and lipids and lipoproteins: a randomized controlled trial.  Sally Chiu, Nathalie Bergeron, Paul T Williams, George A Bray, Barbara Sutherland, and Ronald M Krauss.

  • Conclusions: The HF-DASH diet lowered blood pressure to the same extent as the DASH diet but also reduced plasma triglyceride and VLDL concentrations without significantly increasing LDL cholesterol
  • Supported by Dairy Management Inc. and by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, NIH, through University of California, San Francisco Clinical & Translational Science Institute grant UL1 RR024131.  RMK has previously received and is currently receiving research funding from Dairy Management Inc. for this and other projects. None of the other authors reported a conflict of interest. This was an investigator-initiated study, and its financial supporters had no role in the study design, implementation, data analysis, or data interpretation.
  • Question: Does this mean that the investigators decided what they wanted to study and then asked Dairy Management Inc for funding, knowing that Dairy Management would have congruent interests?  Does something like this increase confidence in the results?

I don’t have clear, unambiguous answers to such questions and am collecting opinions in preparation for my next book project.  If you have thoughts about these matters, do share.

Jan 12 2016

The latest in food politics: yogurt wars!

You’ve heard of cola wars?  Try yogurt.

Here’s Chobani’s opening salvo from the New York Times on January 10, and Stephanie Strom’s account of it:

Capture

The ad says:

Did you know that not all yogurts are equally good for you?…

Look, there’s potassium sorbate as a preservative in Yoplait Greek 100.  

Potassium sorbate.  Really.  That stuff is used to kill bugs.

There’s sucralose used as a sweetener in Dannon Light & Fit Greek.  

Sucralose?  Why?  That stuff has chlorine added to it!…

Chobani simply 100 is the only 100-Calorie Greek Yogurt without a trace of any artifical sweeteners or artificial preservatives.

Shades of The Food Babe!

Will yogurt wars help Chobani’s bottom line?

According to Politico Pro

Chobani has taken its dispute over yogurt ingredients with rival Dannon to court, filing a lawsuit Friday that asks a federal judge to declare that claims made in its advertisements “do not constitute false, misleading, disparaging, or deceptive statements”…Chobani’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, follows a letter sent by Dannon on Jan. 7 asking Chobani to discontinue the advertisements.

General Mills, which owns Yoplait, has also sued on the grounds that Chobani’s claims are false and misleading (here are General Mills’ complaint and supporting memo).

And here’s Chobani’s response.

We shall see.

Update, January 29

The Court ruled that Chobani cannot criticize its rivals’ ingredients but can promote its products as natural.  The case is Chobani LLC v The Dannon Company, 3:16-cv-00030, filed in the Northern District of New York on January 8; and 0:16-cv-00052-MJD-BRT filed in the US District Court District Of Minnesota on Jan 10.

Chobani’s press release puts a positive spin on the ruling (sent via e-mail):

Chobani Continues to Fight the Good Fight 

Continues to inform consumers about what’s in their cup

NORWICH, N.Y., Jan. 29, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Chobani, LLC, (“Chobani”), maker of the #1 Greek Yogurt Brand in America, said today that, while it awaits its day in court, it will continue its mission to call on food makers to use only natural ingredients. Chobani will respect the Court’s preliminary decision as it continues its campaign to provide consumers with more information about natural ingredients versus artificial ingredients. As part of the ruling, the Judge said Chobani is free to continue to spread its message about the value of selecting natural ingredients.

“This is not a marketing campaign, it’s a mindset campaign, and it outlines the difference between using only natural ingredients versus artificial ingredients,” said Peter McGuinness, Chief Marketing and Brand Officer, Chobani. “While we’re disappointed by the preliminary ruling, we’re committed to continuing the conversation and it’s good to see big food companies like General Mills starting to remove artificial ingredients from some of their products, like their cereals. In the end, if we can give more people more information while helping other food companies make better food, everyone wins.”

Chobani launched its Chobani Simply 100 Greek Yogurt campaign on January 6, 2016, to help people make more informed decisions about their food choices. Chobani still believes that highlighting the difference between natural and artificial ingredients, specifically sweeteners and preservatives, is important.

Chobani is committed to making high quality Greek Yogurt with simple, authentic, and only natural ingredients, such as fresh milk from local farmers and wholesome fruit. Chobani Simply 100 Greek Yogurt is the only nationally distributed brand of reduced calorie Greek Yogurt that does not contain artificial sweeteners or artificial preservatives.

 

Jan 11 2016

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines’ hidden advice about sugary drinks: definitely there, but hard to find 

I’m indebted to Maria Godoy of NPR’s The Salt for pointing out where in the new 2015 Dietary Guidelines you can find advice about cutting down on sugary drinks.  As she puts it, this is easy to miss.

Here’s my wonky analysis.

In my post about the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, I noted that they are unambiguous about the need to reduce added sugars to 10% or less of calories.  But what they say about cutting down on sugary drinks—the leading source of sugars in US diets—is buried deep in the text.  Fortunately, Deborah Noble of slowfoodfast.com has performed a great public service by producing the 2015 Dietary Guidelines in a searchable pdf format.Here’s where to find advice about cutting down on sugary drinks:

The Executive Summary: See under “Cross-Cutting Topics of Public Health Importance:”

Similarly, added sugars should be reduced in the diet and not replaced with low-calorie sweeteners, but rather with healthy options, such as water in place of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Figure 2-10 explains:

The major source of added sugars in typical U.S. diets is beverages, which include soft drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, energy drinks, alcoholic beverages, and flavored waters.

Reading the Figure tells you that beverages comprise a whopping 47% of added sugars (closer to half if you add in sweetened milks, teas, and coffees).  The text following the Figure says:

Shift to reduce added sugars consumption to less than 10 percent of calories per day: Individuals have many potential options for reducing the intake of added sugars. Strategies include choosing beverages with no added sugars, such as water, in place of sugar-sweetened beverages, reducing portions of sugar-sweetened beverages, drinking these beverages less often, and selecting beverages low in added sugars.

Strategies?  How about just saying: “Cut down on sugary drinks” or “Drink water instead of sugary drinks.”

Figure ES-1 in the Executive Summary illustrates the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans at a Glance.  All it says is:

Limit calories from added sugars…Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars…Cut back on food and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.

Figure 3.2 shows Implementation of the Guidelines through MyPlate: “Drink and eat less…added sugars,” but nothing about sugary drinks.

This circumspection is weird.  Clear, straightforward advice to cut down on sugary beverages has plenty of historical precedent.

Both Figures ES-1 and 3.2 are most certainly derived from a USDA graphic on the MyPlate website (dated January 2016).  This says flat out:

Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

This statement, in turn, derives from:

  • The precepts issued with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines in January 2011
  • The statements issued with the MyPlate graphic in June 2011

myplate

  • The USDA’s May 2012 tip for making better beverage choices.

The 2015 DGAC (Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee) repeatedly urged limits on consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.  Statements like this one, for example, appear throughout the document:

To decrease dietary intake from added sugars, the U.S. population should reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Why did the USDA and HHS writing committee choose to waffle about his point?

This cannot be an accident.  It must be deliberate.  And it can have only one explanation: politics.

Jan 8 2016

Weekend reading: Sugar!

After all the talk yesterday about the Dietary Guidelines’ advice to cut down on sugar, and our sadness at the passing of Sidney Mintz who wrote Sweetness and Power, it’s good to consider just why we like sugar so much.  Oxford University Press has an encyclopedia on Sugar and Sweets.  But this weekend, for a short and sweet reminder, consider this contribution to the genre.

Andrew F. Smith.  Sugar: A Global History. Reaktion Books, 2015.

This is one of Andy Smith’s entries in Reaktion’s Edible series of small, brief, lavishly illustrated books devoted to a single food or beverage.

Andy discussed the genesis of this book in an e-mail memorial to Sidney Mintz.

Sid Mintz had an influence on my professional life as well. In the early 1980s I decided to use sugar as a vehicle to write a history of the world.  It was going to be a three volume work: one volume on Southeast Asia/India and the ancient world; one on the Middle East/Mediterranean in the Middle Ages/Renaissance; and one on the Americas and the modern world. I acquired and located thousands of potential books/articles and these were likely just a small portion of the material I assumed would be necessary to examine.

I continued plugging away until Sid published Sweetness and Power (1985), I assumed publishers would not be interested in another book on sugar history, so I decided to wait a couple years for it to go out of print before I resumed work on my sugar project.  So in the interim I decided to write a book on the history of the tomato, which was published in 1994. Then one topic led to another and sugar ended up on the shelve…

When I dined with Sid in 2001, I told him my sugar story, and asked him if he’d take his book out of print so I could write a sugar book. He laughed, and told me what I knew to be true– the topic of sugar history was big enough for many books.

I finally got around to writing Sugar: A Global History, which was published last spring. Rather than the three volume extravaganza I had planned, it ended up one of the shortest books I’ve ever written.

Maybe, but lots of that information got into it, wonderfully written, and beautiful to behold.

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