Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Jan 10 2017

FDA releases label rules for Added Sugars

Just in the nick of time, the FDA has released rules on labeling added sugars.  and re-adjusting serving sizes, documents aimed at helping food manufacturers prepare for the sweeping update to Nutrition Facts labels set for 2018.

The FDA also released draft guidance for complying with the rules.  Here is one example from this Q and A:

7. How should I calculate the amount of added sugars in a fruit juice blend containing the juices of multiple fruits that have not been reconstituted to 100 percent (full-strength)?

If the juice blend is reconstituted such that the sugar concentration is less than what would be expected in the same amount of the same type of single strength juice (e.g., less than 100% juice), the added sugar declaration would be zero. If the juice blend is reconstituted such that the sugar concentration is greater than what would be expected in the same amount of the same type of single strength juice, the amount of sugar that is in excess of what would be expected in the same amount of the same type of single strength juice must be declared as added sugars on the label.

A separate draft guidance explains changes in serving sizes that also go into effect.

When does all this happen?  The rules became final in May but they do not have to be implemented until July 26, 2018.  Businesses with annual food sales below $10 million get an additional year to comply.

The elephant in the room?  Will the new administration step in and repeal the whole thing?

The relevant documents

 

Jan 9 2017

FoodNavigator-USA’s Special Edition on Snack Foods

I always like to share FoodNaviagator-USA’s special editions—collections of articles on one theme, in this case, what’s happening with snacks from the industry’s perspective.

Special Edition: Snacking trends 

What’s hot in snacks? Sprouted grains? Posh jerky? Chickpeas? Gourmet marshmallows? What’s the difference between a meal and a snack, or are the lines becoming increasingly blurred? What’s a suitable portion-size? This FoodNavigator-USA special edition explores the hottest new trends and brands in the market.

Jan 5 2017

Coca-Cola and ABA sued over misleading science

The Center for Science in the Public Interest sent out a press release yesterday to announce a lawsuit filed on behalf of the nonprofit Praxis Project.

The complaint says Coca-Cola and its trade association, the American Beverage Association (ABA), mislead the public when they trash the science linking sugary drinks to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and the like.

It cites the August 2015 account in the New York Times of Coca-Cola’s funding of the Global Energy Balance Network, which aimed to shift attention from poor diets as a cause of obesity to lack of physical exercise.  Coca-Cola spent $120 million on research from 2010 to 2015 that could cast doubt on evidence linking health risks to sugary drinks.

It also cites quotations from officials of Coca-Cola and the ABA and researchers they fund “making false and deceptive statements about sugar-sweetened drinks.”  For example:

  • Coca-Cola’s senior vice president, Katie Bayne, claims that “[t]here is no scientific evidence that connects sugary beverages to obesity.
  • “Simply put, it is wrong to say beverages cause disease,” the ABA stated in another release.
  • One of the scientists funded by Coca-Cola, Dr. Steven Blair, stated that “there is really virtually no compelling evidence” that sugar drinks are linked to the obesity epidemic.

The complaint also charges that Coca-Cola paid dietitians to promote sugary drinks; it quotes one dietitian who suggested that an eight-ounce soda could be a healthy snack, like “packs of almonds.”

It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit fares.  Stay tuned.

Jan 4 2017

SNAP to Health launches new website, resources

I was a member of the commission that developed the SNAP to Health report.  We recommended getting more information about what foods SNAP participants purchase with their benefits and conducting pilot studies or taking sugary drinks out of the eligible items.

Now SNAP to Health has redesigned its website as a a virtual town hall for information and resources regarding food insecurity, obesity prevention, and the current state of federal food assistance programs.  It has also added sections for WIC resources.

Here’s the press release about the new site.

And here’s one more item about SNAP

Pushing for drug testing of SNAP recipients: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is still trying to do this in his state.  According to Politico

Wisconsin U.S. District Court Judge Charles Clevert threw out a lawsuit the state had filed against USDA in July 2015 that sought to prevent the department from blocking the state from implementing a drug-testing requirement for recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Clevert said Wisconsin filed suit too soon, because it did not allow USDA to formally reject the state’s new requirement. Normally, states request waivers from USDA when they want to add their own SNAP requirements, but Wisconsin filed its suit preemptively — leading Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to suggest shortly after the suit was filed that it was a political move by Walker, since he was a GOP candidate in the 2016 presidential race. (Walker ended his campaign in September 2015.)

“The reason why [Walker] hasn’t requested a waiver is because he knows it’s not going to be granted because the law is pretty clear,” Vilsack said at the time.

This is a bad idea.  I hope he forgets it.

Jan 2 2017

The FDA’s report on antibiotic use in farm animals: still increasing

The FDA recently published its Annual Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed in 2015 for Use in Food-Producing Animals.

The report finds bad news and good news.

The bad news :

The report shows that sales and distribution of all antimicrobials increased 1 percent from 2014 through 2015, tying for the lowest annual increase since 2009. The percentage of those antimicrobials that are considered medically important in human medicine increased by 2 percent from 2014 through 2015.

The good news: This ties for the lowest annual increase since 2009.

But here’s a summary of antibiotic use in animal agriculture:—9.7 million kilograms of medically important drugs (that’s about 20 million pounds) and another 5.9 million kilograms of antibiotics that are not important medically. (about 13 million pounds).

The report comes with a Q and A.  Here is an example:

Does a summary report exist for antimicrobial sales and distribution for human drugs?  Yes. Please see: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/ucm261160.htm.

Then go to: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM319435.pdf

3.28 million kilograms of selected systemic antibacterial drugs were sold during year 2010 and around 3.29 million kilograms were sold during year 2011. Active ingredient amoxicillin had the highest proportion of total kilograms sold of all selected systemic antibacterial drug products throughout the time period examined.

OK, but the objective needs to be to decrease use of antimicrobials in animal agriculture and use them only for treatment of illnesses, not prevention.

 

Dec 30 2016

Reading for the new year: Gary Taubes’ Case Against Sugar

Gary Taubes: The Case Against Sugar.  Knopf, 2016.

The title of this book says just what it is: a legal brief arguing that sugar is the cause of just about everything that ails us: obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, of course, but also cancer, high blood pressure and, therefore, stroke, as well as gout and Alzheimer’s disease.

This book makes a different argument: that sugars like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are fundamental causes of diabetes and obesity, using the same simple concept of causality that we employ when we say smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer.  It’s not because we eat too much of these sugars…but because they have unique physiological, metabolic, and endocrinological (i.e. hormonal) effects in the human body that directly trigger these disorders.

Sugar, Taubes says, is the basis of a simple unifying hypothesis—insulin resistance—to explain all of these conditions.  To make this case, he provides vast amounts of evidence: historical, observational, and interventional.

Is he right?  Many of his hypotheses are testable and it is greatly to his credit that he has organized the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSi) to do just that.

Taubes is an excellent writer, clear and compelling, and he covers an enormous territory here, from slavery to manipulation of research by the sugar industry.

I worry that focusing on one substance—sugar—smacks of “nutritionism,” reducing the complexities of dietary patterns and health risks to just sugar.   I also think questions remain about the dietary context in which we consume sugar, particularly calories but also complex carbohydrates (starch), which gets digested to sugar—glucose.  Should we not be worried about excess glucose on its own?

If I understand the last chapter correctly, Taubes ducks the question of how much sugar is OK to eat.  Or maybe it’s not ducking.  Maybe what he is saying is that the only safe level of sugar is none.

If so, that is well below the 10% of calories recommended as an upper daily limit by the US Dietary Guidelines and the World Health Organization on the basis of those committees’ reviews of the science.

Let’s get those hypotheses tested.

In the meantime, I am all for eating less sugar.

If this book encourages people to cut down on sugar, it’s all to the good.

Dec 28 2016

Drink orange juice, says Pepsi

PepsiCo has pledged to put real money behind promoting healthy foods, and it is doing just that with a new Tropicana campaign—Morning Spark.

The idea is to get millennials to drink orange juice in the morning, especially Tropicana OJ.

The campaign is going on the APlus.com site, whose cofounder is Ashton Kutcher.

The idea is to

introduce Tropicana to new audiences in new ways, through compelling and engaging content that people can connect to and want to share. Approaching 70 years, Tropicana is a heritage brand and realizes that today, more than ever, we can bring something people truly need to America’s breakfast tables – positivity and optimism. We hope this is the first step in redefining what Tropicana stands for in America’s households.

Who writes these things?  Oh well.

Here’s what the campaign is doing: a social experiment video.  The press release says:

To create the first video, Tropicana visited a coffee shop in Brooklyn on a weekday morning to hand out compliments to people and see if it sparked a change in their attitude, and it did. To see people light up and smile when we told them something positive we noticed was truly amazing. We can’t wait to do more of these efforts with A Plus.  Celebrities who shared the launch video: Ashton Kutcher, Adam Levine, Robin Thicke and Lil Wayne.

What is this about really?  “The orange juice category has faced challenges including declining sales, nutrition misconceptions and disease threatening citrus crops.”

The campaign points out the benefits of OJ: One 8-ounce glass of Tropicana’s 100% orange juice provides:

  • A day’s supply of vitamin C – an antioxidant that promotes healthy skin and gums, helps your body to absorb iron from food and helps maintain a healthy immune system.
  • Folic acid, which is essential for women of childbearing age.
  • As much potassium as a banana. Potassium helps to maintain healthy blood pressure, among other benefits.

Funny thing: the campaign does not mention the 22 grams of sugars in 8 ounces.

Really, I have no trouble with 8 ounces of orange juice even though it must represent the juice of at least three oranges.

And really, freshly squeezed OJ is utterly delicious.  It is also less sweet than Tropicana.

For nutritional purists, an orange is a better choice.

But I’m totally for advertising healthier products, so let’s give Pepsi credit for this campaign.

Here’s what the Washington Post has to say about all this (I’m quoted)

Dec 27 2016

Marketing to kids

The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity has a new report out on TV food marketing to kids.

Even though the time kids spend watching TV has not changed much since 2008″

  • They are seeing more food ads per hour
  • White adolescents are seeing 18% more ads.
  • Black adolescents are seeing 30% more ads.

Get those kids outside this week!

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