by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Fast food

Feb 3 2011

Dietary Guidelines: Why we need them

In an article about fast food marketing, the Los Angeles Times explains as clearly as could be why Dietary Guidelines matter so much.  The article is titled “Eat less, U.S. says as fast-food chains super-size their offerings.”

Why would fast food chains want to offer hot dogs, hamburgers, and burritos ranging from 800 t0 1,600 calories each?  How’s this for a candid answer:

The bottom line is we’re in the business of making money, and we make money off of what we sell,” said Beth Mansfield, spokeswoman for CKE Restaurants Inc., which owns the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains. “If we wanted to listen to the food police and sell nuts and berries and tofu burgers, we wouldn’t make any money and we’d be out of business.

You want to help people stay healthy?  That makes you food police.

If you care about public health, you can expect to be called names.  But that shouldn’t stop you from trying to create a healthier food system.

And thanks to Sheila Viswanathan of the GoodGuide for sending the article.


Nov 9 2010

Two reports on marketing food to kids: international and U.S.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a new, tough report out: “Set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children.

It’s policy aim: to reduce the impact on children of marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt.

Here are some of its recommendations (edited):

  • Given that the effectiveness of marketing is a function of exposure and power, the overall policy objective should be to reduce both the exposure of children to, and power of, marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt.
  • To achieve the policy aim and objective, Member States should consider different approaches, i.e. stepwise or comprehensive, to  reduce marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt, to children.
  • Settings where children gather should be free from all forms of marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt.
  • Governments should be the key stakeholders in the development of policy and provide leadership, through a multistakeholder platform, for implementation, monitoring and evaluation. In setting the national policy framework, governments may choose to allocate defined roles to other stakeholders, while protecting the public interest and avoiding conflict of interest.
  • Considering resources, benefits and burdens of all stakeholders involved, Member States should consider the most effective approach to reduce marketing to children of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt.
  • Member States should cooperate to put in place the means necessary to reduce the impact of crossborder marketing (in-flowing and out-flowing) of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt to children.

The Rudd Center at Yale has just released Fast Food F.A.C.T.S., a thoroughly comprehensive report on the marketing of fast food to children and adolescents.

The report lavishly illustrates and extensively documents the ways in which fast food companies market to kids, the strategies they use, and the effects of these efforts on kids’ diets.

Readers: add it to your library!  FDA and FTC: get busy!

Addition: Advertising Age reports on the fast food industry’s response to the Rudd Center report.  All the industry can come up with, says Advertising Age, is a “canned response.”  Looks like the Rudd Center got it right.

May 2 2010

Need a reason to eat at IHOP? Try “cheesecake stackers”

I’m indebted to the Associated Press for telling me about IHOP’s latest challenge to the KFC Double Down: a pancake sandwich with cheesecake filling.  Yum.

For some reason, IHOP does not provide calorie information for this creation.  One can only imagine.  Happy weekend!

Apr 13 2010

The new KFC Double Down: not an April fool joke?

Several informants – and students in my NYU Food Ethics class – told me about KFC’s latest sandwich or sent me to stories about it: two slabs of breaded chicken, two slices of bacon, two melted slices of cheese, and sauce.  I checked the KFC website.  Apparently, it’s for real.  There is even a TV Commercial.

And here’s the nutrition information.  Practically a diet product (except for the sodium).  You can’t make up stuff like this.

Sandwich Calories Fat (g) Sodium (mg)
KFC Original Recipe® Double Down 540 32 1380
KFC Grilled Double Down 460 23 1430

May 7 2009

Oprah, KFC, free advertising, oh my!

This week, Eating Liberally’s kat wants to know what I think about Oprah’s free pass to KFC for adding grilled chicken to its fast food menu.  Here’s what I told her.  The moral: watch out for health auras!

Apr 25 2009

Weekend entertainment: the cost of fast food calories

Smart Money has produced a most instructive display of the cost of 100 calories in meals at fast food restaurants.  Click on the numbers starting with #1 (for which you have to click on #2 – the numbers are off by 1 for some reason).  #1 is the most expensive: $1.47 per 100 calories for at McDonald’s Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken.  # 13 (click on #14) is a Burger King Double Whopper with Cheese at 49 cents for 100 calories but you have to buy 1010 calories at this price.  The cheapest, #15 (click on #16) is a 32-ounce Coca-Cola at 38 cents per 100.

It would be interesting to do the same thing for nutritional value.  Could nutrients (other than calories) be proportional to cost?  That idea might be worth a closer look.

Mar 27 2009

Influences on teenage obesity: fast food proximity

Kids who go to high schools located within 500 feet of a fast food outlet are fatter than kids whose schools are further away, according to a study in the March American Journal of Public Health. The Los Angeles Times took a look, mapped the fast food places near several local high schools, and found no lack of them.  Are kids generally fatter because they have easier access to fast food?  Or is that the only kind of food available?  Or are fast food outlets a marker for unhealthy neighborhoods?

Whatever. The Times quotes an NRA spokesman arguing that the study doesn’t mean a thing.  I can understand why the NRA might be worried.  What if cities stopped allowing fast food outlets near schools? That’s just what the Los Angeles city council tried to do last year. With some research evidence to back up the idea, this study might kick off a national trend.

And maybe, just maybe, kids might start eating healthier meals at school?

Mar 22 2009

Food marketing: cartoons, scholarship, and action

First, the cartoons: this week’s question from Eating Liberally’s kat has to do with whether it makes sense to put cartoon characters on eggs or, for that matter, fruits and vegetables.  I vote no, of course, and the illustrations alone explain why.

Next, the scholarship: The latest volume of Annual Reviews of Public Health contains excellent reviews of studies of the influence of the food marketing environment on child and adult health.

Sara Bleich et al explain why obesity has become so common in the developed world.

Kelly Brownell’s group reviews the effects of food marketing on childhood obesity.

David Katz discusses school-based obesity interventions.

Mary Story et al describe policy approaches to creating healthy food environments.

And the American Association of Wine Economists (a group new to me, but interesting) forwards its Working Paper #33:

Janet Currie et al on the effect of fast food restaurants on obesity.

Finally, the action: Perhaps in response to all this, language inserted into the congressional spending bill asks the Federal Trade Commission to set up an interagency committee to set nutritional standards for products allowed to be marketed to children age 17 or under.  According to Advertising Age, the food industry thinks this is not a good idea.

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